Diabetes: early diagnosis, better management

BY: Doreen Andoh
Diabetes: early diagnosis, better management
Diabetes: early diagnosis, better management

Doctors say the warning signs of diabetes can be so mild that you don't notice them, especially true of Type 2 diabetes, although the condition in its advance stage can be very devastating.

It is said that because people do not really prioritise knowing their diabetic status, risk levels and chances of developing the disease, most people only find out at the advanced stage, when symptoms from long term damage of the disease begin to show.

But health professionals have warned that at the time symptoms become obvious, the condition, which is manageable and preventable in type two diabetes if seen early, would be at an advanced stage resulting in diabetic complications, which are usually in an untreatable stage.

Ghana situation

Unfortunately, Ghana is reported to be one of the many countries with a high burden of the disease, which is often a lifestyle triggered condition.

An International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Report in 2017 established that 518,400 new cases of diabetes in adults were reported in 2017 alone, pitching the prevalence rate at 3.6 per cent.

In the same year, the Ghana Diabetes Association, which is a member of the federation, reported that over four million Ghanaian adults and 1,200 children were living with diabetes, while many others did not know their status.

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In 2017, diabetes claimed more than 177,000 lives in Ghana, 5,000 in 2015 and approximately 8,300 in 2013.

Statistics available to the National Diabetes Association indicate that there are more than four million diabetic patients in the country, aged between 34 and 64.

Doctors say that just like all other health conditions, diabetes, if diagnosed early or if risk factors are picked up early, will increase a person’s chance of preventing complications, increase survival, help provide better management and even prevent it if detected at the pre-diabetic stages.

It has therefore, become imperative for everyone to be in constant talk with health professionals about one’s risk levels for getting diabetes and what can be done to lower the chances or better manage the condition.

Statistics recorded by the Centre for Non-Communicable Diseases indicates that 90 per cent of all cases are not diagnosed early in order to ensure early treatment.
Additionally, 70 per cent of all diabetes cases are diagnosed only after death.


The IDF defines diabetes as a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces.

Or it is a chronic disease that results in the accumulation of excess glucose (sugar) in the blood of an individual due to the inability of the pancreas to release adequate insulin to mop up excess glucose in the blood storage.

There are three types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational diabetes.

Although the causes, particularly, of type one could not be known, it occurrs when the body’s defence system attacks the cells that produce insulin and it particularly affects children.
The exact cause remains unknown, but it may be due to genetic and environmental factors, including viruses.

Only 10 per cent diabetes cases are of type 1.

Type 1 diabetes, often referred to as insulin dependent, is caused when the pancreas does not produce insulin, a hormone that regulates the amount of sugar in the blood. Without insulin, sugar builds up in the blood instead of being used for energy.

Type 1 is present in about 10 per cent of diabetic cases and they require daily intake of insulin to survive. This type is usually not preventable, but can be managed.

With type 1 diabetes, the symptoms usually happen quickly, in a matter of days or a few weeks. They're much more severe, too.

It usually affects children or young adults, starting suddenly and getting worse quickly.

It is treated by daily insulin doses, a healthy diet and regular physical activity.

In Type 2 diabetes or adult onset diabetes, as it is commonly known, usually develops before one’s fortieth year.

However, recent changes in lifestyle is making this type also prevalent in children.

The risk also increases with family history.

Type 2 occurs when the body is unable to use or does not make enough insulin and can often be managed with medication, proper diet and physical exercise.

It can be prevented with adequate awareness and lifestyle changes.

The body produces insulin but can’t process it properly.

The early warning signs are hard to spot and sometimes people brush it off as stress and fatigue.

The risk or triggering factors of type two, which constitute 90 per cent of all diabetic cases globally, include over weight and obesity; unhealthy diets; lack of exercise, sitting for too long, family history and high blood pressure.

Eighty per cent of type 2 diabetes is preventable through a healthy life style.

Type 2 diabetes begins when the body's muscle, fat, and liver cells become unable to process glucose.

The pancreas reacts by producing extra insulin, but in time, it cannot produce enough insulin. The body can no longer control blood glucose levels.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes affects women during pregnancy. Although temporary, there is an increased risk of developing diabetes in later years, for both mother and child.

Women with gestational diabetes experience heightened blood sugar levels and can't produce enough insulin to absorb it all.

In most cases it develops between the 14th and 26th week of pregnancy, known as the second trimester, and disappears after the baby is born.


Take steps to prevent Type 2 diabetes by making healthy food choices, staying at a healthy weight, and moving more every day. Find ways to stay calm during your day.

So, the best way to keep diabetes at bay is by regular checkups and discussing more about diabetes with your doctor.

Risk factors for Type 2

Changing lifestyles, cheap calories in the form of processed foods are putting more and more people at risk of developing Type-2 diabetes.

National Diabetes Association

The President of the National Diabetes Association, Mrs Elizabeth Esi Denyoh, said diabetes was high in adolescents due to poor nutrition and unhealthy lifestyles.

She expressed worry about the huge taxes charged on diabetes products and appealed to the government to remove them.

Through the work of the association, she said, children and adults living with diabetes received insulin, glucometers and strips free of charge under the auspices of the Life-for-a-child Foundation.

In view of the high cost of glucometers and strips for self-monitoring of blood glucose, she said, the Ministry of Health and the government should take a critical look at subsidising those items that were imported into the country.

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