The bittersweet reality of the surge in diabetes cases on a daily basis is a pointer towards the need for the patients to seek proper medical help as soon as it is diagnosed. If left untreated, diabetes doubles the risk of other health complications that may develop in the future. Hence the patients should give due importance to the medical advice and strictly follow the dietary and lifestyle discipline prescribed by the doctor.
The insatiable need for information has cast a bad influence on diabetics who are fed with lots of misconceptions about the disorder, especially about HbA1 and insulin, through social media. The potential danger in social media's misinformation is that it generates a wrong sense of ill-will in the minds of the patients against taking the right kind of medical help. Renowned diabetologist Dr. Jyothydev Kesavadev, director of Jyothydev's Diabetes Research Center, unravels the authenticity of the fake messages about diabetes that have been doing rounds in social media, and also gives expert tips for a diabetic.
Fake messages about diabetes and the mode of treatment have been coursing through WhatsApp groups since 2016. Not that they are popping for the first time to trick internet users, but undoubtedly such cruel jokes do create an impact on innocent people. It is true that lack of treatment can prove fatal. For instance, in an interview, Dr. Fiona Godlee, the first woman editor of the world's oldest medical journal 'BMJ', gives a very brief account of diabetes, which surprisingly turned out to be something absurd when projected out of context as a WhatsApp news.
1. 'Needn't worry if the blood sugar level is 250; no treatment required even if the three month average of HbA1c is 8%'
Similar fake messages are being circulated through WhatsApp under the name of a US-based scientists' organisation. Many viewers outrightly believe the bogus medical advice coming in social media that there is nothing to worry about if the HbA1c test, that indicates the average count of blood sugar level over the past three months is as high as 8 per cent, or if the sugar level is 250mg/dL. Many doctors have experienced patients questioning their prescriptions and reducing or completely stopping the intake of routine medicines.
The sugar level of a normal person in the morning will be below 100mg/dL and two hours after a meal will be under 140mg/dL. When the HbA1c level reaches 5.7%, it indicates the early stage of diabetes. A person is considered to be diabetic if his or her blood sugar level reads at 126 on fasting and 200 two hours after a meal. The person evolves into a full-blown diabetic when he attains the HbA1c level at 6.5 per cent.
How modern medicine arrived at the above 6 readings
These are the stages to warn you when diabetes complications can lead to blocks in blood vessels, retinopathy that affects the retina, nephropathy that affects the kidneys. A person who falls prey to a two-minute WhatsApp video from an unknown source should have the sense to at least check the veracity of the facts with a family doctor before drawing conclusions.
The desired level of A1c in a person to seek medical help
The A1c level is largely dependent on the patient's age, other health issues, medicines and technology.
For example, take the case of a 15-year-old boy having Type 1 diabetes. Here, the treatment should be given without lowering his blood sugar level. It is best to maintain his A1c below 6.5 per cent using modern technology such as Artificial Intelligence and Continuous Glucose Monitoring systems. Modern medical science bodies have stipulated varying treatment protocols in a different set of persons. In the absence of such technologies, it is ideal to bring the A1c below 7. In case the boy is using the older versions of insulin and depends on glucometer only occasionally, there is nothing to worry about even if the HbA1c is at 8. The benefits of bringing the sugar level under control will have a lasting impact on the body. Moreover, it could take years of patient wait to achieve the result of treatment. At the same time, a sudden dip in sugar level can be fatal. So the mode of treatment can vary from person to person as a medical team prescribes a mode of treatment for a patient after deciding on the numerical parameters of sugar level depending on a couple of factors.
2. 'Insulin shots are unnecessary' is another fake message
2021 is the centenary year of insulin discovery. Against this backdrop, it is ideal to examine the growing relevance of this false news. 100 years ago when there was no insulin, diabetic patients lived only for weeks and months after diagnosing the disease. The discovery of insulin was so crucial for mankind that the world honoured the scientists who discovered insulin with no less than Nobel Prize. Irrespective of the type of diabetes, insulin intake may be required at some stage of treatment in all types of diabetes patients.
Drug manufacturing industry in India enjoys an important position in the world. India is one of those countries in the world that makes available insulin pens affordable to the common man. A person who has started the right kind of therapy at the right time does not require even 10 units of a daily dose of insulin intake.
Diabetes also proved to be one of the main villains in Covid-19 deaths. There has been an alarming rise in the number of diabetics in post-Covid India, especially Kerala. More than a dozen tablets are available in the market for diabetes, but they are ill-equipped to bring down the power of sugar content in the body. Insulin helps to reduce the level of sugar no matter how high it is. The delay or denial of insulin intake can affect kidneys, vision, memory, sexual stimulation, etc.
Despite the availability of medicines and modern technology, only a small section (5 to 10%) of diabetic patients seek the right kind of treatment. Sadly, unscientific treatment methods and miracle remedies propagated by evil forces are able to win the trust of some or confuse a large section of the public. It is high time Keralites, who are considered to be the most educated people, show common sense to distinguish between right and wrong.