Diabetes: Third cause of Death in Burundi

The world celebrates the Diabetes Day on 14 November each year. While four millions of people die yearly due to diabetes complications, 60% of them are amputated.

Dr. Lévi Kandeke: “If the patient has tested positive, s/he may refer to an ophthalmologist for timely treatment”

Dr. Lévi Kandeke: “If the patient has tested positive, s/he may refer to an ophthalmologist for timely treatment”

According to the recent surveys conducted by the Public Health Ministry in 2016, the number of people suffering from diabetes is increasing day after day. In Gahombo commune of Kayanza province, out of 430 people screened, 14 people tested positive for diabetes (3.2%) while 58 out of 1670 people screened tested positive for the disease in Gitega province (3.4%). In Kinyinya commune of Ruyigi province, 38 out of 767 people had diabetes (4.9%) while 50 out of 2817 people screened tested positive (1.77%) in Cankuzo eastern province of Burundi.

“In Burundi, diabetes is the 3rd leading cause of morbidity and mortality after malaria and HIV/AIDS”, says Dr. Josiane Nijimbere, Minister of Public Health.

According to WHO projections, the number of deaths caused by diabetes will double by 2030 and more than 80% of them occur in developing countries. “Four million people die each year in the world due to diabetes complications. Moreover, it causes 60% of amputation in developing countries”, says the minister.

For her, the earlier a person is diagnosed, the earlier the treatment can be administered to reduce the risk of harmful and costly complications.

The risk factors for diabetes are sedentary lifestyle, obesity or overweight, physical inactivity, poor diet, genetics and excessive consumption of alcohol.

Screening earlier to prevent sight loss

There are two common types of diabetes namely type 1 and type 2. The first one is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system destroys the insulin-producing the cells in the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes accounts for most cases of diabetes and is characterized by insulin resistance and insufficient insulin production. Type 1 diabetes can often be controlled through diet, weight loss and regular physical activity. It can also require treatment with medication, including insulin.

Dr. Lévi Kandeke, an ophthalmologist says diabetes is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, blindness, and kidney failure and lower-limb amputation. “These complications can be prevented or delayed by maintaining blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels as close to normal as possible” says Dr. Lévi. He adds that many complications can be picked up in their early stages through screening, so that treatment can be given to prevent them from becoming more serious.

“It is important that all people with diabetes are routinely screened for diabetic retinopathy in order to prevent progression and development of diabetes –related loss of sight, given that 1,8 out of 38 millions of people in the world are blind due to diabetes ”, says Dr. Lévi.

The major risk factors for the progression of retinopathy are the duration of diabetes, high glucose levels and high blood pressure. “If the patient has tested positive, s/he may refer to an ophthalmologist for timely treatment with laser photocoagulation and/or the use of the anti VEGF treatments (intraocular administration of vascular endothelial growth factor inhibitors). It can prevent sight loss by stabilizing it”, says Dr. Lévi.

Burundi will celebrate the Diabetes Day on 18 November in Bujumbura under the theme “Eyes on diabetes”.