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From awareness to action: Highlighting the importance of National Diabetes Awareness Month

In 1923 Frederick Banting and John Macleod won a Nobel Prize for discovering insulin, the diabetes treatment which has gone on to save millions of lives around the world. On this 100th anniversary, we are recognising World Diabetes Day, which is part of National Diabetes Awareness Month.

National Diabetes Month is an annual event each November to boost awareness about the risk factors, symptoms, and types of diabetes.

The facts of global diabetes:

  • Approximately 537 million adults (20-79 years) are living with diabetes (as of 2021)
  • The expected number of people living with diabetes is predicted to rise to 643 million by 2030 and 783 million by 2045
  • 75% of adults with diabetes live in low- and middle-income countries
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, amputations, and kidney failure
  • ​Those with diabetes are twice as likely to develop heart disease in comparison to those who don’t suffer from it

Diabetes is a chronic condition that can lead to a range of health concerns if not effectively managed. The two main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2, each with its own set of potential complications. Here are some of the health concerns associated with diabetes:

Short-term complications
1. Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar): this can occur when blood sugar levels drop too low, leading to symptoms such as shakiness, dizziness, confusion, and, if severe, unconsciousness. It is more common in individuals using insulin or certain oral medications.
2. Hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar): when blood sugar levels are consistently high, it can lead to symptoms like increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, and blurred vision. Long-term hyperglycaemia is associated with complications.
3. Ketoacidosis (type 1 diabetes): this is a potentially life-threatening condition where the body produces high levels of blood acids called ketones. It is more common in type 1 diabetes and can lead to a diabetic coma if not treated promptly.

Long- term complications
1. Cardiovascular issues: diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Elevated blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and the heart over time.
2. Kidney disease (nephropathy): diabetes is a leading cause of kidney failure. Persistent high blood sugar can damage the small blood vessels in the kidneys, reducing their ability to filter waste from the blood.
3. Eye complications (retinopathy): diabetes can damage the blood vessels in the eyes, leading to diabetic retinopathy, which can cause vision problems and, in severe cases, blindness.
4. Neuropathy (nerve damage): high blood sugar levels can damage the nerves, leading to neuropathy. This can cause pain, tingling, and numbness, particularly in the hands and feet.

Reproductive concerns

  • Fertility issues: diabetes can affect both male and female fertility.
  • – Gestational diabetes: pregnant women with diabetes may develop gestational diabetes, which can increase the risk of complications for both the mother and the baby.

It is crucial for individuals with diabetes to work closely with their healthcare provider to manage their condition effectively, including monitoring blood sugar levels, adopting a healthy lifestyle, taking prescribed medications, and attending regular check-ups to prevent or manage these potential complications. Early detection and proactive management can significantly reduce the risk and impact of these health concerns associated with diabetes.

National Diabetes Awareness Month is observed not only in the UK but also across the world, especially on November 14th, World Diabetes Day, to raise awareness and promote diabetes prevention and management on an international scale.

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