At least 20,600 Batswana or roughly three percent of the adult population, suffers from diabetes with a lot more going undiagnosed.
This was revealed by Dr Aderonke Oyewo during the World Diabetes Day commemoration at Molapo Piazza on Saturday.
She said the figures emphasised the need for urgent action. “Diabetes is more than a health issue and requires definitive policy action across many sectors,” she added.
She lauded the establishment of diabetes excellence centres in Gaborone and Francistown respectively by the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders in 2011.
Oyewo further said cases of Type 2 diabetes can be prevented, while serious types could be avoided through healthy lifestyles and living environments that encourage and facilitate healthy behaviour.
The diabetes centre and services started in Block 6 Clinic in April 2011 and the weekly diabetes clinic from Princess Marina Hospital merged with it.
“The clinic is currently seeing most of the diabetes patients in greater Gaborone and the surrounding areas, with an estimate of around 4,000 patients on the diabetes register.
Over 1,000 patients are seen and managed in the clinic every month,” said Oyewo.
She added that 80 percent of those that the clinic caters for are within the working age of 25 to 64 years. A majority, about 95 percent, have Type 2 diabetes, while 65 percent of the patients are female.
Dr Gontle Moleele, a Gaborone Private Hospital-based healthcare practitioner specialising in endocrinology emphasised the need to control blood sugar levels.
She said when uncontrolled, diabetes, which results when the body does not produce enough insulin (a hormone that regulates sugar in the blood) causes excessive tiredness, passing large amounts of urine or excessive thirst.
“The real problem with diabetes is that if it is not properly treated it can cause irreversible damage to the body. It damages the eyes and this damage is one of the leading non-infective causes of blindness,” Moleele said.
Other complications include damaging the nerves to the feet, causing burning pains and numbness.
She added that the risks of these problems are reduced by tight and safe control of blood sugar, diet, exercise and medication.
Moleele emphasised that diabetes care is multidisciplinary and encouraged all involved stakeholders to take part in developing and implementing care processes.