Sweet and silent killer stalking South African women

13 November 2017 - 15:54 By Nivashni Nair
A woman using a glucometer to check her blood sugar levels.
A woman using a glucometer to check her blood sugar levels.
Image: iStock

The mother living in Soweto will brush off symptoms associated with diabetes while the woman in Johannesburg's northern suburbs will immediately seek medical treatment when her glucose levels are slightly elevated.

Johannesburg endocrinologist Dr Kershlin Naidu often hears "I got just a bit of sugar" from impoverished patients.

"There is quite a bit of discrepancies in the socio-economic classes. In Soweto for example‚ if there is no pain‚ patients feel that they are okay. The issue of just the simple taxi fare to come to the hospital to get it checked is a problem. In addition‚ they may have children and there is no one to look after them.

"On the flip side‚ in the northern suburbs where there is a higher socio-economic class‚ diabetes is over diagnosed. People are a lot more in tune with health issues. Even with slight glucose levels they are worried‚ and get assistance quite early‚" Naidu said.

This year World Diabetes Day 2017‚ commemorated on Tuesday‚ aims to highlight women's rights to a healthy future.

According to the World Health Organisation about 205-million women are living with diabetes.

By 2040 at least 313-million women will be diabetic.

The International Diabetes Federation last month said diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women globally‚ causing 2.1 million deaths each year.

Almost half of women who die in low-income countries due to high blood glucose die prematurely‚ before the age of 70 years.

"Because of socioeconomic conditions‚ girls and women with diabetes experience barriers in accessing cost-effective diabetes prevention‚ early detection‚ diagnosis‚ treatment and care in South Africa‚" Naidu said.

The KwaZulu-Natal health department said diabetes could be significantly reduced and millions of lives saved through the reduction of risk factors‚ early detection and timely treatment.

On Tuesday KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo‚ in conjunction with the Bongi Ngema-Zuma Foundation‚ will embark on a morning walk and aerobics programme to create awareness on the disease in Sithobelumthetho in Newcastle.