Diabetes“The Silent Killer”

WHEN he was 21 years old, John developed a puzzling, unquenchable thirst. He also had to urinate frequently—eventually about every 20 minutes. Soon John’s limbs began to feel heavy. He was chronically tired, and his vision became blurry.

The turning point came when John caught a virus. A visit to the doctor confirmed that John had more than the flu—he also had Type 1 diabetes mellitus—diabetes, for short. This chemical disorder disrupts the body’s ability to utilize certain nutrients, primarily a blood sugar called glucose. John spent six weeks in the hospital before his blood-sugar level stabilized.

That was more than 50 years ago, and treatment has improved considerably during the past half century. Nevertheless, John still suffers from diabetes, and he is not alone. It is estimated that worldwide, more than 140 million people have the disorder, and according to the World Health Organization, that number could double by the year 2025. Understandably, experts are concerned about the prevalence of diabetes. “With the numbers we’re starting to see,” says Dr. Robin S. Goland, codirector of a treatment center in the United States, “this could be the beginning of an epidemic.”

Consider these brief reports from around the world.

AUSTRALIA: According to Australia’s International Diabetes Institute, “diabetes presents one of the most challenging health problems for the 21st century.”

INDIA: At least 30 million people have diabetes. “We hardly had any patients under 40 about 15 years ago,” says one doctor. “Today every other person is from this age group.”

SINGAPORE: Nearly a third of the population between 30 and 69 years of age have diabetes. Many children—some as young as ten—have been diagnosed.

UNITED STATES: Approximately 16 million people are afflicted, and each year some 800,000 new cases are diagnosed. Millions have the disease but do not yet know it.

Treatment for diabetes is made more difficult because a person can have the disease a long time before it is diagnosed. “Because the early symptoms are relatively mild,” notesAsiaweek magazine, “diabetes often goes unrecognized.” Hence, diabetes has been dubbed the silent killer.

In view of the prevalence and the severity of this disorder, the following articles will address the questions:

● What causes diabetes?

● How can those who have the disorder cope with it?


Behind the Name

The term “diabetes mellitus” comes from a Greek word meaning “to siphon” and a Latin word meaning “sweet like honey.” These words aptly describe the disorder, for water passes through the person who has diabetes as if it were being siphoned from the mouth through the urinary tract and right out of the body. Furthermore, the urine is sweet with sugar. In fact, prior to the discovery of more efficient techniques, one test for diabetes was to pour a patient’s urine near an anthill. If the insects were attracted, this indicated the presence of sugar.


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