Understanding diabetes better can help prevent the very real dangers of diabetic complications. A pharmacist from South Africa’s original national courier pharmacy shares crucial details to help prevent immediate and long-term complications of this common chronic health condition.
“In South Africa’s hot summer months, both type 1 and type 2 diabetics should take extra precautions to avoid heat stroke or heat exhaustion because they are at significantly higher risk,” says pharmacist Themba Muhlarhi of Medipost Pharmacy.
“Symptoms of heat exhaustion include headache, dizziness or nausea, perspiration, fainting and rapid heart rate, and should be treated as a medical emergency for anyone, including people with diabetes who are especially vulnerable to the heat.
“Being dehydrated can cause diabetics’ blood sugar levels to rise dangerously high, so it is essential to drink plenty of water at all times, especially on hot days and when exercising, in addition to following your usual treatment plan. Avoid alcohol, caffeinated or sugary drinks, as these actually dehydrate your body more and often contain unhealthy levels of carbohydrates,” he adds.
Knowledge is power
“Understanding more about the finer details of living with diabetes is important for patients and their families and can help make it easier to manage your condition. We also need more awareness about screening because the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, in particular, may not always be obvious.”
“Diabetes is a long-term condition characterised by higher blood sugar levels. Some people’s bodies cannot produce the hormone insulin needed to break down sugars in the blood digested from the food we eat. This is known as type 1 diabetes, and it is usually diagnosed in childhood and requires lifelong insulin therapy.
“Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is a progressive condition where the body becomes less sensitive to insulin and the pancreas produces less of it, so the body cannot use insulin as effectively to clear the excess sugars from the person’s bloodstream,” he explains.
A carbohydrate-controlled diet that is low in fat and high in fibre, coupled with as much exercise or physical activity as possible, is an integral foundation for managing diabetes.
What are the dangers?
When diabetes is not well controlled, and a person’s blood sugar levels get too high, this can lead to long-term damage as well as life-threatening complications that can develop relatively quickly.
“Over years or decades, both type 1 and type 2 diabetics are at higher risk of developing nerve damage and chronic complications that can range from cardiovascular disease, kidney damage and slow healing wounds, to vision loss, sexual dysfunction, gum disease and certain cancers,” Muhlarhi says.
“More immediate complications include diabetic ketoacidosis, a build-up of acidic chemicals called ketones in the bloodstream produced when the body breaks down fat rather than carbohydrates for energy. This can be extremely dangerous and primarily affects people with type 1 diabetes.
“Type 2 diabetics are more prone to hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic state [HHS]. When a diabetic’s body is fighting infection, this can cause the blood sugar levels to rise dramatically – even if the person is taking their diabetes medication as usual.”
“Although diabetes management requires commitment, the good news is there’s a lot we can do to monitor and keep blood sugar levels stable in the safe range once a person is aware of their condition,” Muhlarhi says.
Glucometers, glucose testing strips, lancets and insulin pumps help track and control blood sugar. To help make it as easy as possible to adhere to prescribed treatment and manage diabetes, Medipost Pharmacy offers these devices and free delivery of chronic medications – safely and confidentially – to any address in South Africa.
“Test your blood sugar regularly, before and after meals, and keep a daily record to help track your progress. Schedule a check-up with your healthcare provider if you notice any changes or find your blood sugar levels are outside the range they should be.
A glucometer measures blood glucose levels in a tiny drop of blood, which the person extracts from their finger by pricking it with a clean lancet. There are also blood and urine testing kits to detect ketone levels to proactively help in avoiding diabetic ketoacidosis, which can have lasting health implications or even be life-threatening,” Muhlarhi says.
Technology for diabetics
“Nowadays, technology is providing even more helpful tools for people with diabetes to manage their condition effectively. Some glucometers automatically digitally record blood sugar readings. There are also insulin pumps and sensors referred to as CGMs [continuous glucose monitoring], which continuously monitor blood glucose levels and administer the correct amount of insulin, without the person having to check their blood sugar and inject themselves.”
These and other medical devices and non-prescription pharmacy items are available from https://shop.medipost.co.za/, enquire using the chat bot or via firstname.lastname@example.org. As well as dispensing medicines to individuals privately, Medipost Pharmacy also offers telephonic pharmacy advice to patients in all official South African languages and renders assistance with registering PMB conditions, including diabetes, helping to conserve medical scheme members’ day-to-day benefits.
“No one chooses to be diabetic, and as pharmacists, we understand how difficult it can be to cope with a chronic condition. We are here to support you in your treatment plan and make it as simple as possible to adhere to your monthly medication and keep your blood sugar under control,” Muhlarhi says.