Diabetes is a disease that, if estimates are to be believed, affects 10 to 15 percent of the population (about 800,000 people) in Serbia. But that is not the only disturbing fact: a huge number of people do not know they have diabetes until complications occur, and along with aggressive campaigns for a healthier and more active life, more and more young people are suffering from the disease.
Diabetes has a huge number of people who do not feel any problems: Detection only when complications occur
– As experts who deal with metabolic disorders, we are already worried because we do not have this information “since yesterday”, so such statistics should also make citizens think. A large number of people live seemingly completely normal lives with slightly elevated blood sugar levels. They have none of the usual symptoms of diabetes, and the disease slowly destroys the body. When they don’t have problems, people don’t check themselves regularly and don’t go to the doctor, and that’s the biggest problem: unregulated diabetes poses a risk of a number of other unfavorable factors and complications. The most common type, diabetes mellitus 2, if left untreated, primarily carries the risk of atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke, as well as infarction. Unfortunately, diabetes is often detected in the coronary care unit, which is especially dangerous for numerous categories of patients who have problems with blood vessels, blockages and the like – he warns in an interview for eClinic portal professor Dr. Katarina Lalićspecialist in endocrinology, head of the Department for Lipid Disorders and Cardiovascular Complications in Diabetes at the Clinic for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases of the University Clinical Center of Serbia.
Unregulated blood sugar damages the smallest blood vessels: Which organs suffer first
Professor Lalić points out that the eyes and kidneys are organs that will signal in the very early stages of the disease that the constantly present elevated glycemia has affected them, and specifies:
– The first two points that will indicate that unregulated sugar has left consequences and that damage has occurred are the fundus of the eyes and the kidneys, because there are the most small blood vessels (capillaries). On the other hand, we know that type 1 diabetes patients, if their sugar levels are under control, do not have the same risk as type 2 diabetes patients. And in their case, after the first five years from the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, it is mandatory to have an eye fundus examination, as well as a specific kidney examination, once a year. It involves checking the level of albumin, specific proteins in 24-hour urine. For people with type 2 diabetes, the risk of complications is higher, so such examinations should be started immediately.
Why prevention is so important
The interlocutor of our portal appeals to citizens to take the word prevention seriously. First of all, Prof. Dr. Lalić tells us the statements of both European and American studies that even in the case of prediabetes with timely intervention, more than 50 percent of people will not get diabetes.
– By intervention, we mean first of all a change of lifestyle, which although it sounds like a phrase, is the simplest way to prevent the development and progression of diabetes. It is reflected in changing the regime, that is, the way of eating and conducting regular physical activity. And here the studies are unequivocal: if an obese person loses only 5 percent of his body weight per year, he will also reduce the chance of diabetes by 50 percent. A satisfactory level of physical activity is 60 minutes a day, if we take (add up) the total activation. It really shouldn’t be that complicated, and it brings benefits to both the patient and the healthcare system – the professor is clear.
A message to people with diabetes
Her most important message to those suffering from diabetes is to approach their disease with seriousness, control their blood sugar levels daily and adjust their insulin dose accordingly. If you notice a worsening, you should definitely not wait, but contact your doctor. Also, the interlocutor of the eClinic portal reminds that there are Diabetes Counseling Centers in almost every health center on the territory of Serbia, where they can get information and advice on how to eat. This is very important, emphasizes Prof. Dr. Katarina Lalić, because they are also the patients themselves, regardless of the discipline that most of them carry out, are “inundated” with advice from social networks, many of which are useless, and some of which can be dangerous.
The number of people suffering from not only diabetes but also insulin resistance is on the rise
For Bojan Marković, president of the Association for the fight against diabetes in the city of Belgrade “Blue Circle”, the alarming data on the number of people suffering from diabetes is not a surprise. Marković says that the growth trend in our country does not differ much from the situation in the world. Simply, there are more and more people with some type of diabetes, but also with insulin resistance. He emphasizes that it is particularly important that out of 800,000 people, at least 40 percent do not know that they have diabetes, which means that they practically live without therapy and will almost certainly receive a diagnosis at some point.
Even the tireless activist for a better position of people with diabetes has no dilemma: the key word is prevention. This is confirmed by his personal long-term experience of living with this disease, but also by patients and members of the association with whom he communicates on a daily basis.
What factors are an alarm for caution and mandatory check-ups
– If both prediabetes and insulin resistance are treated in time, it will not turn into type 2 diabetes. Regardless of all the problems that exist, we have to work on raising the level of health culture and adopt preventive checkups as something absolutely necessary and normal. A special alarm for regular check-ups is a family history of the disease. So, if someone in the family already had or has diabetes (parents, brothers, sisters, aunts…), the risk factors for getting the disease are increased. Type 2 diabetes does not cause any symptoms, unlike type 1, which is why so many people are unaware that they live with a higher blood sugar level than normal – explains Marković.
The situation for patients in Serbia is changing for the better: the RFZO has approved a larger number of test strips
Regarding the daily life of patients diagnosed with diabetes in Serbia, the president of the “Blue Circle” says that significant progress has been made, above all, in the field of innovative therapy for type 2 diabetes. Also, what is extremely important and will please all sufferers, is the realization of the right to a larger number of test strips at the expense of the RFZO. Sugar monitoring is crucial because good self-control of sugar prevents complicationsemphasizes Bojana Marković.
It is expected that the decision to increase the number of test strips will be formalized next week.