The number of diabetic patients is increasing at an alarming rate with more than 1.3 crore people in the country currently being affected by this chronic metabolic disease, according to a recent study on the prevalence and risk factors of diabetes.
Around 70% of the country's diabetic patients fail to keep their diabetes under control, the study found.
Health experts and clinicians blamed obesity, decreased physical activity, intake of processed foods and tobacco use for the rise in diabetics who are also prone to develop other non-communicable diseases such as heart and kidney diseases.
In addition to developing other diseases, the medical expenses of diabetic patients are also shooting up. Patients must regulate the chronic condition through proper medication, diet and physical exercise, they said.
The study also found that around 61.5% of diabetic patients were unaware that they are suffering from diabetes. Only 35.2% took treatment regularly, and 30.4% of them had the disease under control.
A total of seven medical researchers from Dhaka University, Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University and other Australian universities conducted the study published in the PLOS journal in June this year.
According to physicians, diabetes is said to be under good control if HbA1c, a form of haemoglobin, is below 6.5%. But a large number of diabetic patients in Bangladesh have uncontrolled diabetes.
The HbA1c test is a simple blood test that measures your average blood sugar levels over the past three months.
Dr Shahajada Selim, associate professor of Dept of Endocrinology at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Hospital told The Business Standard, "Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, reproductive problems. Around 80% of diabetic patients die of a heart disease. If there was no diabetes, the number of kidney patients would have come down drastically."
"Medical expenses are also increasing due to diabetes and comorbidities, other than diabetes, are adding more to the overall cost. Around 10% of the total expenditure of the health sector in Bangladesh is spent on the treatment of diabetes," he said, adding that the prevention of diabetes should be given more importance.
President of the Diabetic Association of Bangladesh Professor Dr AK Azad Khan said diabetes is never completely cured.
"But if you follow the prescribed rules and regulations with the doctor's advice, it is possible to keep this disease under control and live a healthy and almost normal life. It is also possible to avoid other health complications caused by diabetes," he said.
Gestational diabetes is a growing concern
Twenty-six out of every 100 pregnant women in Bangladesh suffer from diabetes. Doctors say that women with gestational diabetes and their unborn babies are more likely to develop Type-2 diabetes – a condition where the human body fails to use insulin properly, resulting in unusual blood sugar levels.
Dr Shahajada Selim, also the general secretary of Bangladesh Endocrine Society, said, gestational diabetes is increasing alarmingly. It can cause problems for both mother and child. Even if the mother's gestational diabetes is under control, the child's risk of developing diabetes increases by 40%."
Experts recommended planning pregnancy and keeping gestational diabetes under control.
Professor Robed Amin, line director of Non-Communicable Disease Control (NCDC) at the Directorate General of Health Services, said, "The government has taken the initiative to provide free insulin to 5,000 Type-1 diabetic patients. Besides, Type-2 diabetes patients are being given free medicine at 200 centres across the country."
To control diabetes and reduce the risk of other diseases, he advised everyone to get tested for diabetes at the age of 40.
World Diabetes Day is being observed across the globe on Monday with the theme "Access to Diabetes Care".