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How serious is type 2 Diabetes in South Africa?

Type 2 diabetes is one of two serious diabetic conditions. Often described as a lifestyle disease, it is the most diagnosed diabetes condition in South Africa (visit this link to find out more about Type 1 diabetes).

In 2017, Statistics South Africa found that diabetes has killed more people than HIV, hypertension (high blood pressure) and heart attacks combined. It is also a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, and lower limb amputation. To add some perspective, according to the International Diabetes Federation 4.5 million South Africans have diabetes although over 50% are undiagnosed.

Early detection.

Prediabetes, as described by the Centre for Communicable Diseases (CDC), is a serious health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes. Yet, prediabetes can also lead to heart disease and stroke. Early detection is therefore very important.

Who is most at risk?
Risk factors include:

  • Being overweight
  • 45 years or older
  • A brother, sister or parent with Type 2 diabetes
  • Minimal physical activity
  • Diabetes during pregnancy
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome

While age is a factor, the Centre for Communicable Diseases (CDC) reports that more children, teenagers and young adults are developing diabetes because of unhealthy diets and a sedentary lifestyle.

What are the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes?

Because you may not feel symptoms at an early stage, you should have your blood sugar checked regularly. Once you have passed the prediabetes stage, you could experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow healing sores
  • Frequent infections
  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
  • Areas of darkened skin, typically the neck or armpits

If you notice these symptoms, visit your Link pharmacist for a blood sugar test or see your doctor. If diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you will be counselled to change your diet, get more exercise and if need be, take medication.

Diabetes awareness campaigns are run annually in November but this chronic disease does not have a neat time table. Your Link pharmacist is there for you throughout the year to discuss your symptoms, do the blood sugar screenings, advise on a healthy diet and lifestyle and if prescribed by your doctor, help you to adhere to essential medication.



While all reasonable effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this article, information may change or become dated, as new developments occur. The Link group shall not be held liable or accountable for the accuracy, completeness or correctness of any information for any purpose. No content in this article, irrespective of the date or reference source, should be viewed as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor, pharmacist or any other suitably qualified clinician.