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Diabetes can be managed

Diabetes Management


Diabetes, often referred to by doctors as diabetes mellitus, is one of the most common chronic conditions in the world.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes occurs when the body fails to process glucose correctly either because insulin production is inadequate, or because the body's cells do not respond properly to insulin, or both. Insulin is the hormone that is used by your body to get energy(carbohydrates and glucose) from the food you eat.

Many South Africans have diabetes, but a large number remain undiagnosed.

According to the Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology about 3.6 million South Africans (about 6% of the population) suffer from diabetes.  Data from Cape Town show that 12% of adults have diabetes.

There are two main types of diabetes

Types of Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes – is a condition where the body stops producing insulin. It is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, With type 1 diabetes the illness usually develops quite quickly, over days or weeks, as the pancreas stops making insulin.

Type 2 Diabetes – is a condition that develops over time where the body is unable to use insulin properly. The majority of people in South Africa have type 2 diabetes.

With type 2 diabetes, the illness and symptoms tend to develop gradually (over months or years). This is because in type 2 diabetes you still make insulin (unlike type 1 diabetes). However, you either do not make enough for your body`s needs, and/or the cells in your body are not able to use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance.  Some people with Type 2 diabetes also may need insulin if they are not controlled using tablets.

Adverse Health effects

Diabetes is dangerous  if left untreated or if it is not well managed, the high levels of blood glucose associated with diabetes can slowly damage both the  nerves and the small and large blood vessels in the body, resulting in a variety of complications.

  • Heart disease and stroke.
  • Eye problems that can lead to trouble seeing and going blind.
  • Nerve damage that can cause your hands and feet to feel numb. In extreme cases some people lose their foot or leg.
  • Kidney problems that cause your kidneys to stop working.
  • Gum diseases and loss of teeth.

The good news is that with careful management, these complications can be delayed and even prevented.

Contact Zuzimpilo today to have your blood glucose checked!


Early diagnosis of diabetes is extremely important if complications are to be prevented or delayed.

Diabetes is diagnosed quite easily by measuring the levels of glucose in the blood

Consult your doctor at Zuzimpilo if you develop the following symptoms:

  • Unusual thirst and drinking a lot of water
  • Frequent urination
  • Unusual weight loss (this is mainly in Type 1)
  • Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
  • Blurred vision
  • Tingling and numbness in the hands or feet.

However, many people who have type 2 diabetes may show no symptoms and they need to have a blood test to show they have Tyoe 2 DM.  .

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes

  • Overweight or obese
  • Physically inactive
  • Family history: a parent or sibling has diabetes. Diabetes is more likely for certain ethnicities. In South Africa, the Indian population in South Africa has the highest incidence.
  • High blood pressure often occurs in the same people who have type 2 diabetes
  • High cholesterol often occurs in the same people who have type 2 diabetes


Causes of diabetes

In type 1 diabetes, your immune system which normally fights harmful bacteria or viruses attacks and destroys your insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

This leaves you with little or no insulin. Instead of being transported into your cells, sugar builds up in your bloodstream.

Type 1 is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental factors, though exactly what many of those factors are is still unclear.

Causes of type 2 diabetes

In type 2, diabetes, your cells become resistant to the action of insulin, and your pancreas is unable to make enough insulin to overcome this resistance.

Instead of moving into your cells where it's needed for energy, sugar builds up in your bloodstream. Exactly why this happens is uncertain, although as in type 1 diabetes, it's believed that genetic and environmental factors play a role in the development of type 2.

Being overweight is strongly linked to the development of type 2 diabetes, but not everyone with type 2 is overweight and not all people who are overweight have Type 2 DM.


While diabetes cannot be cured as it is a chronic condition, it can be managed successfully through the use of the right treatment provided at Zuzimpilo Medical centre.

Non-drug treatment for both diabetes type 1 and type 2 involves changing ones lifestyle.

  • Healthy eating is a cornerstone of any diabetes management plan.
  • Make every meal well-balanced, plan to have the right mix of starches, fruits and vegetables, proteins, and fats.
  • Physical activity is another important part of your diabetes management plan. When you exercise, your muscles use sugar (glucose) for energy.
  • Regular physical activity also improves your body's response to insulin. These factors work together to lower your blood sugar level.
  • The more strenuous your workout, the longer the effect lasts. But even light activities such as housework, gardening or being on your feet for extended periods  can lower your blood sugar level.

Drug treatment

Diabetes Type 1

To treat diabetes type 1 you will need insulin injections for the rest of your life.  Zuzimpilo doctors or nurses will give a lot of advice and instruction on how and when to take the insulin.

Insulin is not absorbed in the gut so it needs to be injected rather than taken as tablets. There are various types of insulin, i.e short acting and longer acting. The type or types of insulin advised will be tailored to your needs.

In some cases your doctor may recommend insulin pump therapy which continually infuses insulin into the layer of tissue just beneath the skin. Insulin pumps work by delivering a varied dose of fast-acting insulin continually throughout the day and night, at a rate that is pre-set according to your needs.

Diabetes Type 2

The first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes is diet, weight control and physical activity.

If your blood glucose level remains high despite a trial of these lifestyle measures then tablets to reduce the blood glucose level are usually advised.

Insulin injections are needed in some cases if the blood glucose level remains too high despite taking tablets.

Monitoring and control

Being diagnosed with diabetes can come as a shock and may take some adjustment, but it's important to remember that although this is a serious, chronic disease, it is also highly manageable as millions of people with well-controlled diabetes live full, active lives.

An extremely important aspect of diabetes management is monitoring your blood glucose frequently to know how food, activity and medications are affecting its levels, and to make sure it isn't getting too high or low.

Your doctor will perform regular checkups and tests, but he/she may also want you to start checking your blood glucose at home: this is usually done with small machine called a blood glucose meter.

Sources: The Heart and Stroke foundation of South Africa, Health 24, Health-e News Service, American Heart Foundation, The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

Annual Health Checks | High Blood Pressure Management | Cholesterol Screening | Adult Immunisation | Child Vaccine Programme | Family Planning | Pap SmearsCircumcisionVoluntary HIV Testing | CD4 TestingWellness ProgrammeARV ProgrammePrevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission | Post-exposure Prophylaxis | TB Screening | Pharmacy


One man’s reaction to his diagnosis.


How this lady’s life has improved

10 ways to be successful on ARVs

Download this article here

Antiretroviral therapy typically combines three or more antiretroviral drugs that work together to keep the HI Virus from multiplying. Although antiretroviral drugs improve health and delay death, they do not cure HIV/AIDS.


  1. Commit to drug taking: ART is lifelong treatment which needs to be taken correctly for it to be effective.
  2. Get to know your treatment: Ensure that you know and understand what medication you are on and how to take it.
  3. Choose a pill time: Get help from your healthcare provider to work out a medication schedule that will fit into your daily activities.
  4. Remember your medication: Make use of an alarm clock or cellphone to remind you when to take your medication.
  5. Get a pillbox: Keep a supply of your drugs with you wherever you go, so that you do not miss your pill time (it also helps to have a bottle of water with you).
  6. Get a treatment buddy: It helps to disclose to someone close to you, preferably someone who lives with you, who will be able to offer you support and to remind you to take your treatment.
  7. Missed doses: If you miss a dose take it as soon as you remember. But if it’s almost time for your next dose then you should wait and take the next dose. Do not take double doses.
  8. Stopping treatment: Do not stop treatment on your own, unless instructed to do so by your doctor.
  9. Be aware of side effects: Ensure that your health care provider has explained to you any possible side effects that you may experience. If you do experience any report them to your Health care provider as soon as possible.
  10. Monitoring and evaluation: Be sure to keep all scheduled appointments with your healthcare provider, especially in the first few months of taking treatment, so that the effect of the treatment can be monitored.



Name: Sarah
Age: 34 years

This patient found out that she was HIV positive when she was 4 months pregnant. She struggled to tell her mom and her partner who also found out he was HIV positive. She gave birth to an HIV negative son. Her family supports her to take her ARVS every evening when Generations begin and she hasn’t looked back. In fact she often forgets she is HIV positive!

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Name: Disebo

Age: 39 years

This ZuziMpilo Medical Centre patient thought she would die within three days of her AIDS diagnosis which she discovered after the birth of her son. Rather than tell her family the truth, she told her mom she had Cancer, but when she finally admitted to having AIDS, she was almost forced to leave home. Thankfully she began on ARVs. She says: “Seven year later I am still doing well on treatment and living a healthy life thanks to the drugs. Antiretroviral medication really works!”

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