World Diabetes Day 2021: With the staggering rise of non-communicable disease burden in India, the country is reeling under the effects of this silent epidemic. Compounding this problem, the pandemic has emerged as a significant roadblock, severely disrupting routine services and contributing to poor disease management.
Cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes form four major challenges affecting the health of our nation today, of which diabetes is a growing area of concern, with India home to the second largest diabetes population in the world. The disease affects 77 million people in India alone, of the estimated 500 million diabetics worldwide, highlighting the urgent need to address this public health problem.
What Does The Study Say?
Diabetes is a complex disease, requiring a multifaceted approach to management. One way to ensure glucose control is by making appropriate lifestyle and dietary modifications – the first line of defense in diabetes management. However, one of India’s biggest challenges is our diet, which holds true for diabetics as well. A study we conducted, ‘STARCH,’ published in the international medical journal BMJ Open, outlined this problem – with the Indian diabetes population reportedly consuming higher than the advised carbohydrate intake, as recommended by the National Institute of Nutrition, in their diet. This can result in abnormal glucose levels.
People with diabetes must adhere to dietary recommendations amongst other steps to effectively manage the condition. Innovations in medicine aim to address this problem as well, such as by lowering glucose levels post-meals. In addition to these measures, diabetes necessitates regular attention – follow-ups and treatment. Regular monitoring is a must to keep diabetes in check, keeping patients alert to any concerning spikes or lows requiring prompt intervention. However, the problem doesn’t stop there. A chronic disease itself, diabetes also increases one’s risk of developing other health complications. This association is particularly heightened when one’s diabetes is poorly managed.
The links between diabetes and associated conditions are important to understand. These include cardiovascular issues, retinal diseases, kidney diseases, and nerve damage, amongst other conditions. For one, diabetes can increase the risk of various cardiovascular problems including coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, or heart failure. Diabetes is also associated with kidney disease, including chronic kidney disease, kidney failure or even end-stage kidney disease.
Diabetes Can Affect Eyes
Diabetes also affects the eyes. The disease can cause diabetic retinopathy or eye complications as a result of damaged blood vessels in the retina. Roughly between 17.6% and 28.9% of diabetics suffer from diabetic retinopathy in India, which can lead to Diabetic Macular Edema (DME). In such conditions, early detection is crucial as it can help prevent the avoidable outcome of vision loss. Effective diabetes management is also vital to avoid or delay disease progression.
Given the chronic nature of the disease, timely diagnosis is essential so patients can make lifestyle modifications and closely monitor their condition, while also benefitting from early treatment. Diabetes requires lifelong treatment and management, but with early detection, this process can be smoother. With the changing nature of the disease, treatments too must evolve. In addition to advocating for effective diabetes management, care must be taken to ensure holistic treatment, catering specifically to an individual’s unique condition and comorbidities.
Greater investments in research and development can lead to a better understanding of the links between diabetes and related diseases, which can guide the creation of advanced treatment options. This, in turn, can support patients and prompt improved health outcomes. Innovations, leveraging latest technology, insights and analysis of data from diabetes trends in the local population, have the potential to revolutionize the future of diabetes treatment – for the disease alone as well for the wide spectrum of associated conditions.
This World Diabetes Day, marked on November 14th, is time to pave the way for effective diabetes management, informed by R&D and analysis of the evolving condition. Together, let’s combat this silent, growing epidemic.
(With inputs from By Dr. Ashish Gawde, Medical Director, Bayer Pharmaceuticals)