On World Diabetes Day, November 14, we stand in solidarity with the more than 400 million persons who live with diabetes worldwide. In Dominica, the prevalence of diabetes is approximately 10-12% of the population, however, this is likely an underestimate. This year’s theme, diabetes and the family, gives us an opportunity to focus on both the challenges and opportunities that families face when living with diabetes. The family is the essential support network who assists in both the prevention and management of diabetes.
Diabetes management frequently involves significant dietary and lifestyle changes that must be embraced by the entire family if the affected family member is to do well. This is why whenever there is one family member affected by diabetes, EVERYONE is affected by diabetes. In most cases of persons affected by Type 2 Diabetes (insulin –resistant diabetes), there is frequently someone else in the household who also has diabetes or has prediabetes.
Diabetes can be a time consuming and difficult disease to manage. Management requires frequent testing (sometimes up to 5 -10 times daily), frequent medication administration (insulin or tablets) which has to be coordinated with specialized carb controlled meals. Failure to adhere to these requirements may lead to symptoms of high blood sugar ( frequent urination, blurred vision, fatigue) or low blood sugar ( shaking, hunger, loss of consciousness), both of which can be very scary for the family to witness and manage. It is not surprising then that diabetes is frequently associated with depression or mental distress.
Monitoring and medication can be very costly which can easily consume a family’s disposable income. The cost of diabetes medications and supplies continues to increase at an alarming rate and the best medications are easily becoming out of reach for the most vulnerable families. These challenges may appear daunting, however, I have seen families who have seized the challenges and have use them to improve the health and well-being of the entire family.
This week, we stand in solidarity with all persons who live with diabetes. This week is for:
- All children and adults who live with diabetes and administer insulin every day
- The parents of children who live with diabetes who help them administer insulin every day.
- The family members and care givers who assist those who have been rendered disabled due to vision or limb loss as a result of diabetes
- The persons who have lost limb, vision or life due to this disease.
As a sign of our solidarity, today I encourage everyone to abstain from ALL sugar sweetened beverages. It is my hope that this article highlights some of the challenges that families living with diabetes face. As a community, we should continue to support and be compassionate towards persons living with diabetes and advocate for changes that would make it easier to prevent and manage this disease.
Diabetes can be controlled and its complications prevented or delayed with medication, regular follow up care and self-management. If you know a family member who needs help managing diabetes, please call 449-8565 to schedule an appointment.
Lisa Jolly, MBBS
General Practitioner/Primary Care Provider
Diabetes Specialist (East Carolina University)