Diabetes is a condition that concerns every family, whether they realise it or not.

More than 425 million people live with diabetes around the world and this number is only set to rise. As a result, healthcare systems and governments across the world are struggling to cope with the sheer volume of people that need support and treatment. From providing a timely and accurate diagnosis to the provision of appropriate care for all people living with diabetes and raising awareness of what can be done to prevent type 2 diabetes, there is much to consider when implementing effective steps to tackle diabetes.

In the midst of all this are real families who may struggle to cope when a loved one is diagnosed. Sustaining a healthy lifestyle can be a challenge, with longer working hours, access to the right leisure services and healthier food options differing, depending upon individual circumstances. It’s therefore easy to see how supporting and caring for a family member living with diabetes can be a challenge. People of working age often need to look after older or younger family members, while trying to live their own lives and make ends meet.

This year, the International Diabetes Federation’s (IDF) message for World Diabetes Day in November is ‘Diabetes: Protect Your Family’. By raising awareness of whatpeople can  do to lower their risk of developing the condition and how it can be appropriately managed in those already affected, IDF aims to help reduce the increasingly significant impact of the  epidemic on individuals and society.

A LIFE-CHANGING DIAGNOSIS

Healthy nutrition, regular physical activity and medical treatment are integral to diabetes management for all people living with the condition

Around 10% of people living with diabetes have type 1 diabetes. This type has to betreated with insulin and there is currently no way to prevent it. This leaves around 90% with type 2 diabetes. In many, over 50% of people affected according to some figures, type 2 diabetes can be prevented through regular physical activity and healthy eating habits.

Despite its rising prevalence, type 2 diabetes often flies under the radar. Onset can be slow and the warning signs and symptoms mild or absent. Globally, one in two people currently living with diabetes remain undiagnosed and many are diagnosed late when complications arealready present.

This is why a diagnosis can come as a shock, not just for the individual  living with diabetes, but also for their entire family.

Diabetes is a serious but manageable condition. Detecting diabetes early and initiating treatment reinforced with education is key to avoiding potentially life-threatening complications.

When diabetes is left untreated or people with diabetes are not adequately supported, they are at risk of serious health issues. Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, lower-limb loss, heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. Medication, supplies and care need to be made more accessible for families.

DIABETES AFFECTS EVERY GENERATION

Regardless of age, race and gender, diabetes does not discriminate. Any person can develop the condition, but some people are more susceptible than others. That is why IDF is urging people to learn about their risk of type 2 diabetes and seek the advice of a healthcare professional if required. By answering a few simple questions about themselves and their lifestyle, such as dietary and exercise habits, people can quickly discover whether they could be at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The number of children and young adults with type 1 diabetes continues to rise and type 2 diabetes is increasingly diagnosed among this age group. Couple this with an increase in diabetes across all age groups and it becomes easy to see how the condition can put a strain on the whole family. Parents of working age could find themselves caring for loved ones across generations. This can lead to pressure on finances, with those who would normally be  at work having to take time off to look after older or younger relatives.

SUPPORTING FAMILIES

Healthy nutrition, regular physical activity and medical treatment are integral to diabetes management for all people living with the condition. Managing diabetes can be a challenge and requires a daily commitment.

Families have a significant role to play in supporting their loved ones with diabetes. Whether caring for a child who requires insulin injections several times a day or an elderly relative who needs help to check their feet for wounds, families need help and guidance on how to cope and what they need to do.

Diabetes has become a global issue, with lives needlessly lost and healthcare systems pushed to breaking point. IDF firmly believes that people with diabetes, and their families, should have regular and affordable access to the care, education and support required to stay healthy and prevent or delay complications. Yet there is still much to be done. The role and impact on the wider family is often overlooked. Healthcare professionals should help families better understand how they can support their loved ones with diabetes.