Underneath the Sugarcoating: Understanding diabetes the simple way

Diabetes, a medical condition often subjected to discussion due to its high prevalence both at a local and global level is now categorized as an epidemic. According to the International Diabetes Federation, Sri Lanka has a 8.7% prevalence of diabetes among adults, which means that one in every 12 adults in Sri Lanka suffer from diabetes.[1]


At a global scale, diabetes is one of the four main Non-Communicable-Diseases (NDCs) and is estimated to be the fifth leading cause of death among the world population by 2030. [2] It is further learned that low and middle-income countries show higher levels of vulnerability to developing this condition and subsequently facing diabetes-related deaths.


In simple terms, diabetes is a chronic illness that is developed when the pancreas does not produce adequate insulin or when the body no longer can effectively utilize the insulin that is produced by the pancreas. Hyperglycemia also known as high blood sugar is a common implication of having untreated diabetes. Subsequently, this can lead to a person’s systems, nerves, and blood vessels being severely deteriorated. [3]


There are four types of diabetes:

  • Type 01 diabetes: it is where the immune system destroys cells in the pancreas impeding its ability to produce insulin.


  • Type 02 diabetes: this occurs when a person’s system becomes insulin-resistant, and thereby invariably letting a high level of sugar accumulate in your blood.


  • Gestational diabetes: this condition often arises during pregnancy where the mother’s blood sugar level is higher than normal. Women with this type of diabetes have increased risk of pregnancy-related complications.


  • Impaired Glucose Tolerance: Occurs when a person’s blood sugar levels are above normal levels. Often identified as an intermediary stage with a likelihood of leading to type 02 diabetes. [4]


The most common (but severe) consequences of diabetes are heart attacks and strokes, eventual amputation of limbs, blindness and kidney failure. [5]

This ultimately makes us question the causes of diabetes. Research has proven that both genetic and environmental factors play a major role in a person getting diabetes.

Some main risk factors include obesity, mental stress, pre-existing conditions of high blood pressure, cholesterol and lack of physical exercise.[6]

In order to prevent triggering a condition of diabetes or to reduce the severity of its consequences, medical professionals recommend that you,

  • Be physically active (30 minutes a day, minimum)


  • Avoid or control the intake of sugar and saturated fats


  • Maintain a healthy body weight


  • Refrain from smoking tobacco


Early diagnosis and treatment can contribute to minimizing both short term and long term risks. Testing for diabetes is fairly inexpensive and accessible – and can be done in the form of a simple blood test. Common signs of diabetes include urinating often, feeling excessively thirsty, increase in infections, slow healing of sores, blurry vision.[7] It is highly recommended to speak to your doctor and seek medical advice if at any point if you or your loved ones experience these symptoms.


Why is there a high prevalence of diabetes among children in Sri Lanka?
In conversation with Dr. Mahen Wijesuriya, Honorary Director of National Diabetes Centre.
Change of lifestyle is the predominant reason behind the growing case of diabetes among children. Children now live sedentary lives where they spend more time with computers and laptops as opposed to engaging in physically active play time.  The penetration of electronic media, fast food, exams stress are severe contributing factors leading to children developing diabetic conditions.Parents need to be more conscious of how children spend their time, the nutritious value of the food they eat and their mental well being – because diabetes is no longer a health complication suffered by adults.


When living in a fast moving rapidly changing world, our priorities often get misplaced. We must remind ourselves that simple changes in our lifestyle can lead to long term benefits, especially in consideration of our mind and body. Consider these positive habitual changes as investments to ensure that we live healthier, longer and better lives.



[1] https://idf.org/our-network/regions-members/south-east-asia/members/98-sri-lanka.html

[2] https://www.ips.lk/talkingeconomics/2016/04/07/beat-diabetes-in-sri-lanka-too-much-sugar-is-not-that-sweet/

[3] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes

[4] http://www.epid.gov.lk/web/images/pdf/wer/2019/vol_46_no_03-english.pdf

[5] http://www.epid.gov.lk/web/images/pdf/wer/2019/vol_46_no_03-english.pdf

[6] https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes#risk-factors

[7] https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/symptoms.html

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