World Diabetes Day: A quarter of people with diabetes don’t get the help they need
- Alexandre Vasquez
- BBC World Service
A new study published on World Diabetes Day shows that one in four people worldwide are not getting the help they need.
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) says about 26 percent of people have not received adequate information and education about their health upon diagnosis, which can lead to poor management of the disease, increasing the risk of complications such as stroke and failed kidneys -, blindness and lower extremity amputations and the impact on the patient’s mental health.
The study was based on an online survey of 3,208 people with diabetes along with a range of healthcare providers from different countries including Brazil, India and Nigeria.
But as a diabetic, the results of this study were unfortunately not surprising for me and I can understand them well.
Diagnosis of the disease without sufficient information from the patient
Given that I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of seven in my home country of Costa Rica, I fully understand the anxiety and stress of aging without understanding much about its condition.
My diabetes was attributed to a side effect of a drug used to treat osteoporosis that forced me to use a wheelchair.
It was difficult to deal with the disease constantly and on a daily basis. In my teens, my blood glucose meter was not on hand, leading to daily panic attacks, and I would often forget if I had received my insulin injection or if I had accidentally injected myself twice for fear of losing my blood sugar to a level that would drop to mine could endanger my health and my life.
In fact, I didn’t learn more about my health until I moved to the UK at the age of 25. Today, with all the information and technology I have received through the NHS, I feel more confident about making the many decisions I have to make every day to control my diabetes and therefore feel very safe and in control.
I reached out to a diabetic to see if her experience mirrored mine. Ana Lucia, from Chihuahua, Mexico, explained to me that after being diagnosed with the disease, life has changed dramatically, not only for her but also for her family.
Ana Lucia was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of eight after being admitted to the intensive care unit.
“I was frustrated because I was a little girl and I couldn’t eat sweets anymore. It was a big change that happened overnight and they tell me you can’t eat this or that.”
Her mother, Clementina, told us of her confusion during her daughter’s five-day hospital stay: “They told me I had to learn how to inject her insulin because she was a kid, and then we started learning about diabetes together.”
But the lack of support and awareness in dealing with diabetes took its toll on Clementina and her daughter as they struggled with the condition while Ana Lucia was able to continue with her daily activities.
“Schools should have a specific plan for dealing with children with diabetes,” says Clementina.
What is diabetes?
- Diabetes is an incurable disease
- It occurs when the body is unable to control blood sugar levels due to problems with the hormone insulin
- There are two main types of the disease, type 1 and type 2.
Ana Lucia was 17 years old at the time and can now often cope with her illness on her own.
But she admits it’s stressful and not easy: “I sleep fewer hours because I have to constantly check my blood sugar or because I have to wait a few hours after taking insulin.”
Anna Lucia has recently started using a blood glucose meter called Freestyle Libre. This advanced device can measure blood glucose levels without having to prick your finger or worry about running out of blood glucose test strips.
The 17-year-old believes that if she had received the device earlier, she would have improved her quality of life as a diabetic.
Although her friends and family form a strong network for her, she finds that dealing with illness sometimes becomes more difficult, especially during school exams and the stress and tension that comes with it.
Mental Health Effects
In addition to the physical effects of the disease, the current study by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) also looked at the impact on a patient’s mental health when they were not sufficiently informed about their condition.
The association’s president, Professor Andrew Bolton, said he had found that “when a patient is not given enough information about their health, it can lead to both anxiety and depression”.
The study also emphasized that healthcare providers need to be better informed, as less than half of the healthcare professionals surveyed (49 percent) said they believe depression is a complication associated with diabetes based on the cases they treat.
Prof Bolton explained: “People with depression are less likely to take medical advice… For example, if they have a foot problem, they don’t commit to staying away from certain types of shoes.”
Looking more closely at the survey, particularly with regard to depression and mental health, some of the more worrying statistics show that one in five (20 percent) people have experienced depression as a result of diabetes, and that almost a third (30 percent) for Generation Z (born in the late 1990s to early 2000s) and 20 percent for Millennials.
So what can you do?
Professor Bolton says people with diabetes should get information about the disease from certified experts, rather than getting it from social media, as the study shows many rely on them as a source of information about the disease.
The study also highlights that patients with diabetes “take care of themselves most of the time,” in contrast to spending an estimated only three hours a year visiting specialists.
Professor Bolton cites my experience and Ana Lucia’s.
“The experience of living with diabetes is really painful for a child… Adolescence in general is a very difficult period… But in the case of diabetics, there is also the added factor that the child has to take care of himself and think about glucose Levels, injection timing and many other stressful things, that alone is a big challenge.”
The International Diabetes Federation is trying to improve the situation and currently has more than 240 member associations in more than 160 countries working with diabetes patients in their regions with the aim of educating about prevention and treatment through online “Diabetes Schools” programs .
The International Diabetes Federation, along with the International Society of Child and Adolescent Diabetes, is also calling for a reduction in the gap between countries in diabetes awareness worldwide, noting how large it currently is between developing countries and those in Western Europe or North America.
Professor Bolton explains that “diabetes is a global problem, we probably have almost 600 million people with diabetes worldwide now” and I think he sums it up best when he says that “everyone should be given the medicine and education that he needs wherever he is in the world.” “.
This article was edited by Lorna Hankin
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