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The Fiji Doctor

Diabetes in Fiji - What You Should Know

You probably already know that diabetes is a serious health issue in Fiji. Apart from the obvious impact it has on individuals and families, it places a major burden on Fiji's public health systems. Why? Because about half of the older population (peopale above 40 years of age) in Fiji suffer from diabetes.

So I thought I'd pen this article to list down some of the things you should know about it.

Basically there are two types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. Acquiring Type 1 diabetes is in nobody’s control.

What you can control is, and what you could probably tell your friends and families, is Type 2, known as Diabetes Mellitus (DM). There's a lot to write about DM, let me just focus on its causes and symptoms 

So, diabetes is caused by a problem in the way your body makes or uses insulin. Some views on the reason why Type 2 diabetes is so prevalent in this country is because of gene pooling where the disease is genetically passed on from generation to generation. So if you have DM in your genes (from your grandparents or parents) at certain age (usually above 40 years) your pancreas, which is an organ in the human body which produces insulin starts giving up. Insulin is a hormone which is needed to move sugar (glucose) from the blood into the cells of the body, where it is stored and later used for energy. Moreover, if you have a defective pancreas inherited from your parents or grandparents, eventually it will not be able to produce enough insulin to normalize the glucose level in the blood. Also in some cases it does produce the insulin but this insulin has resistance from target cells to move the glucose across. Thus in these cases if you have it in your genes, you can delay acquiring diabetes mellitus as much as possible but you cannot hide from it.

Another reason for the increase incidence of Type 2 diabetes is obesity. Lets face it ,we have adopted a very sedentary (meaning somewhat inactive) lifestyle. In between work and home (and TV and Facebook), we do not take out time to exercise. We prefer take-out and processed foods as its convenient to proper home cooked meals and fresh vegetables. So basically we consume a lot of fats and carbohydrates but don’t do enough work out to utilize it, thus its all stored as fat. This accumulated fat makes it harder for the body to use insulin the correct way because of resistance.

According to the WHO standards, you have Diabetes Mellitus if your fasting (before breakfast) blood sugar level is greater than 6.9mmol/l and your non-fasting (after a meal) is greater than 11mmol/l. Once a person has acquired diabetes, it will be with him/her for life. Diabetes can be controlled with proper diet, exercise and medications. But it cannot be completely cured as yet.

Some of the symptoms of diabetes are:

  1. Bladder, kidney, skin, or other infections that are more frequent or healing slowly.
  2. Fatigue.
  3. Hunger.
  4. Increased thirst.
  5. Increased urination.
  6. Blurred vision
  7. Erectile dysfunction.
  8. Burning sensation or numbness in the feet or hands.

Thus if you have any of these symptoms, have a family history of diabetes, are obese and over the age of 40 years, you should get your sugar level tested at your nearest health facility or clinic regularly. Remember: knowing it and taking early actions to control. Ask those who have it, its a better option that the alternative.


Dr. Naaz

If you'd like me to write on a particular issue or topic of interest, let me know by leaving a note on the Contact Us section of the home page. I'm happy to offer my thoughts where practical.