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Diabetes- The silent killer stalking young victims

By Vision Reporter

Added 12th October 2008 03:00 AM

JANUARY 1996 will forever remain etched in Fred Kyeyune’s mind. The festive season was over and he was looking forward to a new year, hoping that the discomfort he had experienced towards the end of the previous year would end.

JANUARY 1996 will forever remain etched in Fred Kyeyune’s mind. The festive season was over and he was looking forward to a new year, hoping that the discomfort he had experienced towards the end of the previous year would end.

By Frederick Womakuyu

JANUARY 1996 will forever remain etched in Fred Kyeyune’s mind. The festive season was over and he was looking forward to a new year, hoping that the discomfort he had experienced towards the end of the previous year would end.

But the urge to visit the toilet frequently and unquenchable thirst continued, forcing him to take a lot of tea. He was about to join Senior One and his mother was worried that if he got used to taking tea frequently, he would suffer at school.

“I ignored her and continued gulping mugs of tea throughout the day. I felt weak and hungry all the time.”
Since his new school required a medical report, Kyeyune went to Kadic Clinic in Kamwokya for a check-up. A blood test revealed that his blood sugar was above the normal: he was diabetic.

The doctor advised him to go on a diet, gave him medicine and taught him how to inject himself with insulin twice a day. Armed with his insulin kit, Kyeyune joined his new school.

When his classmates saw him injecting himself, they thought he was on drugs, but he used the opportunity to teach them about the disease.

“At first, they could not believe I was diabetic. They thought I was joking, but they eventually believed me,” he says.
In 2002, Kyeyune joined Makerere University, where again, he took it upon himself to teach his colleagues about the disease, advising them to go for screening.

Though he knows a lot about the disease, Kyeyune has learnt some lessons the hard way. At one point, thinking that he could save himself the trouble of taking two insulin shots separately, Kyeyune took two doses at once — the effects were disastrous.
“I lost sanity for about five minutes,” he says.

“I removed stools from the house and returned them without realising what I was doing.”

The excessive insulin had reduced his blood sugar to extremely low levels, hence his strange behaviour.

Diabetics have to make sacrifices like drinking tea without sugar and avoiding soft drinks.

Alice Namutebi, a Senior Three student of Mt. St. Mary’s Namagunga in Lugazi, has not tasted her favourite soft drink for four months now since she was diagnosed with the disease.

“My friends usually tease me. They open soft drinks and offer me a sip. ‘It won’t affect you,’ they implore. But I firmly refuse.” At first, her parents were devastated by the news that she was diabetic, but they have accepted her condition and are supporting her.

The news was particularly shattering for the family because one of her aunts died of diabetes. “I do not feel sorry for myself. My concern is how to get on with life,” she says.

Kyeyune and Namutebi are volunteers at the Uganda Diabetes Association Centre. They get the latest information on the diseases and encourage one another.

The Association’s chairperson, Prof. Andrew Otim, says the disease has not been given the attention it deserves. He says there are 30,000 diabetic children in Uganda, while the figure stands at 600,000 for adults.

These are the cases which have been reported to the hospital, meaning there may be many more out there. Some patients get Type One diabetes, while others get Type Two.

Type One is where the patient has no insulin to regulate excessive sugars in the blood, while type two patients have insulin, but it is not enough to regulate the sugars in the blood.

Prof. Otim is particularly concerned about Type Two diabetes, which is genetic.
“When both parents are diabetic,” she says, “We correctly predict that the children will have it and we regularly assess their glucose tolerance,” he says.

Advanced diabetes damages all the body organs, leading to death. “Patients who follow our advice on healthy living – exercise, eat well (avoid types of carbohydrates that aggravate the condition) and take medicine – are able to manage the disease and lead normal lives, especially for Type Two diabetes,” he adds.

But patients with Type One diabetes must use the insulin shot permanently.
As research on diabetes intensifies, some doctors have put their patients on a combination of insulin and tablets.

The insulin balances the sugar level, while the drugs treat conditions associated with the disease.The prevalence rate for diabetes is 4% for adults, says Prof. Otim, “but in some hot spots, it affects as many as 11% of the population.”

For children, it is 10%, and in hot spots, it is at par with HIV/AIDS, yet awareness of the condition, which affects the rich and poor, young and old, alike, is minimal.”

“ Mulago has a diabetes clinic, but many more are needed throughout the country to help people understand the condition and get easy access to treatment,” says Prof. Otim.

Kadic Clinic in Kamwokya has also been turned into a diabetes centre to treat, sensitise and advise patients, but at a fee.”

Facts about Diabetes
Diabetes is a permanent condition and has become one of the world’s growing health concerns.

There are two types of diabetes: Type One is usually found in younger people and is managed by using insulin and a regulated diet. Type Two occurs in 95% of the cases and usually develops later in life. It can be managed by controlling one’s diet or with a combination of diet and tablets. Occasionally insulin may be used.

Diabetes can cause heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, complications during pregnancy and death related to flu and pneumonia.

Early signs of the disease include; excessive consumption of fluids, being thirsty all the time and loss of weight

Estimates put the number of diabetics worldwide at 20 million

Diabetes- The silent killer stalking young victims

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