Posted on 29 September 2015
If caught in time, diabetes doesn’t need to be debilitating. We chat to Dr Alkesh Magan, a specialist physician and endocrinologist at Mediclinic Sandton, and Dr Heidi Ackermann, a paediatrican at Mediclinic Geneva in George, to find out more about the disease and how to manage it.
How does one minimise their risk of developing diabetes?
Dr Magan: Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease, so good nutrition and regular exercise need to be adopted as permanent lifestyle choices. There are no proven ways at this stage to reduce the risk of type 1 diabetes but research in this field is ongoing, so we may have some answers in the future.
How is diabetes treated?
Dr Magan: Type 1 diabetes is normally treated with insulin hormone, there are various types and they work for specific situations. In early type 2 diabetes we use oral medications. In some patients insulin or other injectable treatments can also be used depending on the specific problems that the patient encounters, so the treatment options are quite varied.
Is diabetes more common among adults or children?
Dr Ackermann: About 5-10% of diabetes patients have type 1 diabetes, which is most commonly diagnosed in childhood. Type 2 diabetes accounts for the further 90-95%. Type 2 diabetes was always considered a disease of older people, but unfortunately more children are being diagnosed these days, usually in their teenage years.
How is childhood diabetes treated?
Dr Ackermann: Childhood diabetes is usually managed with a combination of dietary changes and multiple daily insulin injections. The insulin injections are needed because the pancreas of a person with diabetes is not capable of producing insulin. Regular exercise is also a vital component in the management of diabetes.
Aside from random and fasting blood sugar tests, what other diabetes screening tests are available?
Dr Ackermann: Your doctor may perform an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). A fasting blood sugar test is performed, after which your child is given a sugary drink. Blood is drawn at intervals to see how the body is coping with the sugar load.
The Haemoglobin A1C test is another blood test that indicates the average blood sugar levels for the last two to three months. This test is often used by doctors to assess blood glucose control in patients with diabetes.