By Kefiloe Kajane
Contrary to the popular belief that diabetes is an illness for older people, Ntṧiuoa Raliengoane who found out she had diabetes when she was just 24 years, tells a story that dispels this myth.
Raliengoane says, although some of her siblings had already been diagnosed with diabetes long before her, it never occurred to her that she too could have it.
Describing her early symptoms, she said she would get thirsty constantly and even after drinking plenty of water the thirst would not go away. She says this bothered her a lot but she tried to ignored it.
Raliengoane recalls how she finally decided to go and test for diabetes at the nearest pharmacy, just to be sure, even though she did not have many other warning signs. She was told her sugar levels were too high; shortly afterwards, she went to the hospital and her worst fears were confirmed when she was diagnosed with diabetes.
“Yes it is scary at first because you are young and everything, but I already had people in my family who had it so that brought a little comfort to me. I already knew the diet they were on and everything that I needed to do to live a healthy life.
“My main challenge though, despite all the information I had from my family, was that my body was rejecting the medication I was taking, so it was a lot of back and forth to the hospital with doctors trying to find the perfect medication for me.
“But finally everything was fine and I was living an almost normal life. Now nine years later, I am living a healthy life because it is all about taking care of yourself and staying faithful to the medication,” she said.
She advised people in a similar situation to take care of themselves and know that even when you have diabetes you can still lead a normal life as long as they are wary of myths that it is an illness for old people.
According to a study by Harvard Medical School, diabetes occurs when the body has trouble using the sugar it gets from food for energy. Sugar builds up in the bloodstream. High blood sugar can have immediate effects, like blurry vision. It can also cause problems over time, like heart disease and blindness.
The study explains that there are two main types of diabetes: type one diabetes (once called juvenile-onset diabetes) and type two diabetes (once called adult-onset diabetes). Both are caused by problems making or using insulin, a hormone that makes it possible for cells to use glucose, also known as blood sugar, for energy.
It further indicates that when you eat, your body breaks down carbohydrates into a simple sugar called glucose. It also produces a hormone called insulin that signals the body’s cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. Type one diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t make enough insulin, or stops making it altogether. Type two diabetes occurs when the body’s cells don’t respond to insulin. Either way, since sugar can’t get into cells, it builds up in the bloodstream.
The study further indicated that type one diabetes often comes on suddenly. It usually strikes children and teenagers, but can appear later in life. It is an autoimmune disease, meaning it happens because the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the body’s insulin-making cells. Type one diabetes can’t be cured, but it can be managed by taking insulin before eating.