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  • Writer's pictureDr. Erin Saricilar

What's the big deal about diabetes anyway? A doctor's perspective

#DiabetesAwareness #T1D (Type 1 Diabetes) #T2D (Type 2 Diabetes) #DiabetesManagement #CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitoring)

I'm a vascular surgeon in training and unfortunately, I witness firsthand the extreme impacts that diabetes can have on individuals and their families every single day. It never fails to surprise me how very few people, even the most health conscious, really know about diabetes or the gravity of what such a diagnosis can mean. Younger people especially surprise me in this respect, yet it is exactly this younger community that needs to understand the consequences for our community to have a chance of reducing or preventing diabetes in the long term.

Diabetes is not just a matter of managing blood sugar levels — diabetes is a complex condition with far-reaching consequences that can affect every aspect of a person's health and quality of life. In this post, I’ll share some of my experiences to shed light on why diabetes is indeed a big deal, from the seemingly minor inconveniences to the life-threatening complications, and how innovative technology like non-invasive continuous glucose monitoring can make a difference - to both patients and the clinicians that treat them.

Decoding diabetes: a vascular consequence

Diabetes, whether Type 1 or Type 2, is more than just a sugar-related issue. It's a chronic condition that affects the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels, leading to a range of health complications.

On the lighter side of impacts, patients can experience inconveniences like frequent urination and excessive thirst. On the more severe side of things, long-term or poorly managed diabetes can also lead to heart disease, kidney failure, vision loss, nerve failure and limb amputation. There is also a correlation with vascular dementia, which is having an increasing impact on our aging population.

These more extreme cases are because floridly uncontrolled diabetes have vascular consequences — it causes arteries at the extremities to block up with calcium and nasty plaques, which then causes the aforementioned complications due to inadequate blood flow to the relevant regions of the body. 

For example, because there is less blood flow to the legs, nerves begin to disintegrate. At this stage, if a patient were to get even the smallest wound on their foot, it becomes extremely hard for that wound to heal, which then has a high chance of getting infected. Very often, this scenario ends with toes or entire legs being amputated.

An invisible global pandemic hurting communities and economies

Around 537 million people worldwide have diabetes with numbers expected to rise to 783 million by 2045, following developing nations' growing reliance sugar and increased availability of processed foods. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the prevalence of diabetes in these regions is rising at an alarming rate, with an estimated 80% of people with diabetes living in low- and middle-income countries by 2045. Diabetes is not just a personal health issue; it's a global pandemic with far-reaching implications for public health systems, affecting entire communities and economic productivity.

Individuals living with diabetes face increased risks of complications, which not only diminish quality of life but also contribute to disability and premature mortality. The ripple effects of diabetes are felt across various sectors, including education, employment, and social services, as individuals may experience difficulties in managing their daily activities, leading to absenteeism from work or school and reduced productivity. Moreover, the psychosocial burden of diabetes, including stigma and discrimination, can exacerbate the challenges faced by individuals and their families.

The economic burden of diabetes is then staggering, with healthcare expenditures associated with managing the condition and its complications skyrocketing. The economic burden of diabetes is expected to be $845 billion by 2045 as per current trends. These costs include not only direct medical expenses but also indirect costs such as lost productivity and disability.

What makes diabetes particularly concerning is that a significant proportion of cases, especially Type 2 diabetes, are preventable through lifestyle modifications and early intervention. Despite this knowledge, the prevalence of diabetes continues to climb steadily, highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to address prevention, screening, and management.

NI-CGM is a game-changer for diabetes management

A reliable and clinically validated non-invasive continuous glucose monitoring (NI-CGM) technology would be game-changing for both patients and clinicians.

For patients, unlike traditional point-in-time fingerstick or other invasive continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) products, NI-CGM devices coupled with real-time blood sugar information would offer greater convenience and comfort. This then enables individuals to monitor their glucose levels more effectively, leading to better management of their condition. Most diabetics that I talk to have expressed frustration and disillusionment with current glucose monitoring methods, which often leads them to forgo monitoring completely. Non-adherence then has catastrophic consequences on patients and their loved ones. Patients often express a preference for something that works AND looks great, which is another thing current products don't offer, being bulky, painful and recognisable.

For clinicians, the ability to gain valuable insights into see my patient's real-time glucose levels would greatly enhance my ability to optimise treatment, allowing for timely adjustments to medication regimens, along with personalised diet plans, and lifestyle interventions.

Empowering prevention: harnessing NI-CGM's potential

NI-CGM devices also hold significant potential in diabetes prevention by empowering individuals to take control of their metabolic health and make informed lifestyle choices to mitigate their risk of developing the condition. For example, individuals can use NI-CGM to track the impact of dietary changes, exercise regimens, and stress management techniques on their glucose levels, allowing them to make informed decisions that promote optimal glycemic control and overall health. Additionally, NI-CGM can serve as a valuable tool for healthcare providers in identifying individuals at risk of developing diabetes and implementing early intervention strategies, such as targeted education and counseling, to prevent the progression of prediabetes to overt diabetes.

So diabetes is indeed a big deal – it's a chronic condition with far-reaching consequences for individual's quality of life as well as the health of nations and economies. It is a worldwide epidemic that demands urgent attention and proactive management. Innovative technologies like continuous glucose monitoring offer revolutionary opportunities to diabetes and preventative care, which is why I'm working with Opuz to create a reliable NI-CGM to empower individuals to take control of their health and live life to the fullest.


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