There’s concern that not only has diabetes reached an epidemic state in Barbados, but that more and more young people are being diagnosed with the disease.
Speaking at a symposium held in honour of the late co-founder of the Barbados Diabetes Foundation and the Maria Holder Diabetes Centre for the Caribbean Dr Oscar Jordan, Dr Diane Brathwaite, who is a diabetologist, specializing in the treatment of the disease, acknowledged that one fifth of all adults in Barbados have been diagnosed with diabetes.
However, she warned that “the sad story and the worrying part of that is that nearly the same amount has undiagnosed diabetes” which she said places a “horrific load” on the island’s resources.
While explaining that the cost of health care for a diabetic was six times more per year than that for a non-diabetic, she warned that the cost should be multipled by ten for every complication.
“Barbados, like the rest of the world is in an epidemic. We have a diabetes epidemic,” she said.
But the news gets worse.
“We are seeing an increase in the incidence of Type 1 Diabetes [which is often passed on to children from parents, and which recent studies have also linked to obesity],” Brathwaite added.
Just recently, the Pan-American Health Organisation reported that Barbados had on average more obese people than the entire Caribbean and Latin America.
Brathwaite said in addition to those diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, there was also a rising number of young people with the Type Two strain of the disease, which is caused by lifestyle indulgences, such as physical inactivity, high body fat, or high body weight, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
“I see people with Type Two diabetes who are 17 and 18 years of age,” Brathwaite said, which “means that they have a much longer time that they have to take care of themselves to avoid complications”.
She also reported that since the Centre in Warrens opened to patients in April 2014, “what we noticed in our patients are a lot of complications.
“People are having a lot of visual impairment, a lot of blindness,” she reported, adding that “one third of the patients that we saw over the last three years had loss of sensation in their feet”.
The health care professional also pointed out that “30 per cent of the patients that we were seeing had impairment of the kidney function”. Therefore, she said, “if we could diagnose people earlier, maybe we can help them prevent complications”.
While stressing the need for a regular screening system, the diabetologist said the current level of podiatry care was inadequate.
She also emphasized the need for proper nutrition saying “people think only the things that are sweet will affect their blood sugar, but no.
“Everything that is a starch or carbohydrate that you put into your mouth is going to be converted into blood sugar,” she warned, adding that an understanding of what carries these starches and carbohydrates was needed.