Diabetes: Symptoms, Causes, Risk and Prevention

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes is a chronic disease that results from the body’s inability to process and / or produce insulin effectively. Under normal circumstances, the digestive system breaks down carbohydrates from sugars and starches in foods into glucose, a form of sugar that enters the bloodstream. With the help of the hormone insulin, cells throughout the body absorb glucose and use it for energy. As the blood glucose level rises after eating, the pancreas triggers the release of insulin. The longer one has diabetes, especially if untreated, the more potential the disease has to wreak havoc on the entire body. Lack of awareness about diabetes, combined with insufficient access to health services, can lead to complications that impact the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.

Facts and Statistics

The International Diabetes Foundation (IDF) estimates that in 2014, 387 million people worldwide had diabetes – of which 46.2% of cases were undiagnosed. 39 million of these cases were estimated to occur in North America and the Caribbean, of which 27.1% were undiagnosed. The Cayman Islands, with an estimated population of 58,500, reported slightly more than 5,000 cases in 2014. The numbers are expected to rise tremendously by 2035 to an estimated 592 million cases across the globe. The emerging global diabetes epidemic can be traced back to rapid fluctuations in weight, obesity, and physical inactivity among people worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, in 2012 diabetes was the direct cause of 1.5 million deaths, with more than 80% of diabetes-related deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

The Cost of Diabetes

The following data was published in the IDF Diabetes Atlas Sixth Edition Update, 2014:

  • Worldwide, diabetes accounted for at least $548 billion U.S. dollars in health expenditures in 2013.
  • North America and the Caribbean posted higher healthcare expenditures for diabetes than any other region, primarily due to the high number of cases and associated costs in the U.S.
  • In 2013, North America and the Caribbean spent an estimated $263 billion – equal to nearly half the world’s health expenditure on diabetes.

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