BY GEOFF GILL
TROPICAL DISEASES HOSPITAL
BY JOHN BIRCHALL
BY PETER MORGAN
is a disease which can occur at any age. We do ot know why the disease
happens. Basically, diabetes means that there is too much sugar in the
blood, which is then passed into the urine. Sugar comes into our body from
various foods, as well as ordinary sugar. We use sugar to give us energy
to live and work, and with diabetes our bodies become unable to use
sugars. This is why they accumulate in the body, and spill out in the
urine. These changes in the body make diabetic people pass a lot of urine,
and become thirsty to make up for the water they are passing. Because they
cannot burn up sugar to make energy, people with diabetes may become very
tired and often lose weight.
FOODS CONTAIN SUGAR?
number of types of food contain sugar which the body needs to make energy.
CAN WE TELL IF SOMEONE HAS DIABETES?
are three main features which mean that diabetes may have developed. They
person often passes large amounts of urine,
often feel very thirsty,
often feel very tired.
course, any of the three features may happen to a healthy person who does
not have diabetes. If a person is tired, it does not mean they definitely
But if they suffer from any of the
features regularly, they may have diabetes. Several other features are
often, but not always, present. They are:
weight, despite eating normally,
now have six features which suggest that a person might have diabetes. If
somebody often suffers from many of these, then they probably have
TO DO IF YOU THINK YOU MIGHT HAVE DIABETES
who thinks they have some or all of the six symptoms, should go to a
hospital or clinic.
doctor or nurse can test the person’s urine to find out if it contains
sugar. The person should take a little urine in a bottle with them.
there is sugar in the urine, then the person probably has diabetes. The
doctor can check this by a simple blood test. This is done quickly and
might be discovered by any blood test. This may be done when people go to
hospital for any reason. Diabetes may also be found in pregnant women
during checks before the baby is born.
found like this is just the same as diabetes with symptoms, and must be
treated in the same way.
IS DIABETES TREATED?
There are three ways of treating
All people with diabetes must be careful about what food they eat. Sugar
in tea, for example, must be avoided. Overweight people should eat less
food, to try to become thinner. The doctor or nurse will tell you more
about what people with diabetes should and should not eat.
Sometimes tablets are needed to make people with diabetes feel better. The
clinic or hospital will tell you what tablets to take and how often to
take them. They must be taken regularly and continuously.
If tablets do not work, then injections of something called insulin may be
needed. This may sound frightening, but is easy to do and does not hurt.
One or two injections are usually needed each day. The doctor or nurse
will tell the person what to do.
with diabetes, and their friends and family, should remember a number of
things about diabetes:
do not know what causes diabetes, but we know it is not infectious. Nobody needs to be afraid of catching the disease.
can be treated, but not cured. Treatment must be continuous, with regular
check-ups at the clinic or hospital.
a little care, people with idabettes can live a normal life. Diabetes
should not be seen as a disability.
for diabetic patients.
The main aims of diabetes care are as
the patient feeling well (see the Feeding Young People and Vitamin A
the patient in self care (see below)
blood glucose control as good as possible.
serious complications (much of this is again health and diet
complications if they occur (once again sufferers should be encouraged to
seek whatever medical help is available)
Diabetes and foot
People with diabetes are prone to foot
problems, in particular infections and ulcers. This is usually due to poor
blood supply to the foot. Nerve damage causes numbness, and the diabetic
person may injure their feet without noticing. Infection occurs, and a
serious ulcer may be the result. If not treated quickly, problems like
this can lead to amputation. Any sores or ulcers must be reported to a
nurse or doctor promptly. Other factors which help are general attention
to diabetic control, and avoiding smoking. (See the Leprosy materials for
sandal designs.) Any sores or ulcers must be reported to a nurse or doctor
Diabetes and eye care
As mentioned before, diabetes may
affect the eye, and seriously interfere with vision, sometimes even
causing blindness. The commonest cause is cataract, which is a clouding of
the lens at the front of the eye. This is quite easily cured by an
operation to remove the lens, and for this reason diabetic patients are
always best advised to report deteriorating vision.
further type of trouble however, is “retinopathy”, which involves the
retina at the back of the eye. Here, diabetes may cause damage to the
blood vessels, interfering with vision. This is not so easy to treat; the
only really effective way is to destroy the diseased vessels with laser
burns, but this treatment is expensive and difficult, and rarely available
in developing countries. Once again, good general diabetic control, and
avoidance of smoking, do help greatly.
The importance of education
all that we have read, it should be clear that the key to diabetes
care is self-care. The following is a simple list of suggestions for
teaching basic information about the illness:
diabetes control is important.
education programme can be adapted to different groups of diabetics.
– A game to play.
to ask children:
you know anyone with diabetes?
do you know if they do have diabetes?
can you help someone with diabetes?
hope these materials help your health education programme.
also advise the use of:
Foster Road, Woodville, Near Swadlincote, Derbyshire DE11 7DZ, UK.