Diabetes on the increase in South Africa

Many diabetics remain undiagnosed

Friday, November 13 2015

One of the greatest dangers of diabetes is that there are many individuals who remain undiagnosed, says Dr Trishcka Potgieter, a general practitioner at Medicross Springs family medical and dental centre.

“This is particularly true in South Africa, where diabetes has become a fast-growing problem, with large numbers of people remaining undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated.”

World Diabetes Day, on Saturday, 14 November 2015, aims to improve awareness of this medical condition in which the human body is either not able to produce enough insulin, or is not able to use insulin effectively. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, allows the sugar in foods to enter our cells, providing us with the energy we need to function.

There are two main types of diabetes – types 1 and 2 – both of which can have similar symptoms although their causes are quite different.

Dr Potgieter explains that both types of the disease can be dangerous if left untreated. Over time they can cause damage to the blood vessels and vital organs such as the kidneys. Sufferers are at risk of blindness, coronary heart disease and stroke. Symptoms of both types of diabetes include a frequent need to urinate, constant thirst, increased appetite, weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, slow-healing wounds, and thrush or genital itching.

“Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can be successfully managed, particularly if detected in good time,” she points out.

“The earlier the disease is managed the less impact it will have on the person’s health and wellbeing. Both types of diabetes are a common and often preventable cause of morbidity and mortality, not just in South Africa but worldwide,” she says.

  • Type 1 and 2 diabetes – the differences

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed at a younger age. Often known as ‘juvenile diabetes’, it cannot be prevented. In this form of the disease, which affects between 5 to 10% of all people with diabetes, the human body makes little or no insulin. This is because the sufferer’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This leads to increased glucose in the urine and blood. It can be successfully managed with medical supervision and daily injections of insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is most prevalent in adulthood, although increasing numbers of younger people are being diagnosed with it. In this instance the pancreas produces insulin, but the body cannot use it. The reasons can include genetic factors, obesity, advancing age, and a diet rich in fats, sugar and salt. It is by far the most common form of diabetes. Between 90 to 95% of all diabetics suffer from it.

In many individuals the development of type 2 diabetes is linked to an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle. It can be prevented with healthy living. Those who already have it can manage the condition by eating healthily, exercising regularly, and watching their weight. Some people may need medication, either in tablet form or injections. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with age. A screening test should be part of any health check-up for people over 40, or for younger patients with a family history of diabetes or other risk factors, such as a sedentary life and obesity.

“Even it you notice just one or more of the symptoms, it is worth having a basic screening test done by your doctor or pharmacist. Should the screening test show an abnormal result, a fasting test and other related tests will be done to confirm the diagnosis. This will allow you to seek medical treatment and, where needed, make the necessary changes to your lifestyle,” says Dr Potgieter.


Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Medicross Springs
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville, Thomas Hartleb or Devereaux Morkel
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
Email: mar[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]