City Assists Soaring Diabetic Population

City Assists Soaring Diabetic Population

People often blame diabetes symptoms — fatigue, weakness, weight loss and irritability — on stress and don’t get checked.

Published: May 23, 2012 (Issue # 1709)

As Russia faces what experts describe as a hidden diabetes pandemic, St. Petersburg has opened six education centers aimed at helping diabetics to live a full and happy life, despite their condition.

With 3.5 million people officially diagnosed with diabetes, the country is among the top ten countries in the world for the highest numbers of diabetes sufferers per capita.

The centers are part of a joint project between the city’s health care institutions and the Swiss pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. Similar centers have already opened in 33 Russian towns and cities.

The project’s ideologists call it “managing illness” and argue that a patient can be successfully taught important self-help and prevention techniques.

“The food that you eat, the lifestyle that you maintain, the hours that you sleep, what sort of sports you do — it all makes a vital contribution,” said Natalya Zhavoronkova, head of the St. Petersburg Diabetes Center No. 4.

“The new centers will become an integral part of the state medical treatment scheme. For instance, after a routine visit to their local endocrinologist, a patient will be directed to their nearest education center, where they can receive specific lifestyle, diet or prevention advice.”

The centers will operate four days a week. A detailed schedule is available from local general practice clinics.

As Irina Karpova, St. Petersburg’s chief diabetes specialist and head of the city’s center for diabetes research, points out, although the number of people affected by the disease is rising steadily, many patients do not take their condition seriously enough.

“Diabetes is a very serious chronic illness that can completely ruin a person’s body if patients do not learn how to support themselves, because they will develop complications affecting their eyesight, heart, kidneys and blood circulation,” Karpova said. “The good news, however, is that if sufferers learn how to take control, they can live like healthy people and avoid all these horrors.”

As Karpova noted, during the first stages of diabetes, the illness is not very easy to detect.

The symptoms — fatigue, weakness, weight loss and irritability — are often attributed to general stress, and people are in no rush to get checked.

“Too many people are overworked and tired, and they do not have much trust in doctors; as a result, quite a few patients discover that they are ill when the disease has already done a lot of damage,” she said.

Independent experts argue that although official statistics refer to about 3.5 million diabetes sufferers in Russia, in reality the figure could be three times as big. This opinion is supported by large numbers of advanced cases being discovered, and by the rapidly growing number of new cases.

It is expected that by 2025, Russia will have a staggering 10 million diabetics. In St. Petersburg, there are currently 111,230 people registered as having the disease.

There are two types of diabetes. Type 1, usually found among juveniles and sometimes triggered by severe sudden stress, requires daily insulin injections, while type 2 diabetes is mostly discovered in people older than 50 and is generally a result of unhealthy eating patterns. Type 2 diabetes is treated with pills.

Kristina, 29, who works as a PA in a large international company and asked for her surname not to be printed, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes after a frightening incident on the road in which she narrowly avoided a crash.

“It was just a few weeks after I got my driver’s license and I was not very confident,” she recalled. “And there was another car speeding toward me as I was trying to make a turn…I was far too slow, and suddenly the panic got the better of me. After the car passed by, I was soaked with sweat and was vomiting like hell.”

Kristina felt ill for weeks after the accident, and her constant fatigue, sweating and weight loss were attributed to stress. Neither the young woman nor her relatives thought to check for diabetes. The illness was detected by her GP when she examined her for what Kristina thought was a stomach disorder.

Yelena Morozova, 61, began to experience symptoms of type 1 diabetes after she nearly drowned in the sea. She was 12 years old, and her family was vacationing at a resort on the Black Sea coast. The girl went for a long swim, and suddenly noticed that a storm was brewing. Frightened, she headed toward the shore but was scared that she was too far away to reach it.

“When I finally reached the shore, I was exhausted and my heart was pumping,” she said. “I could barely walk.”

In the weeks that followed, Morozova felt weak and dizzy, and was losing weight.

“When I got back to school in September, I fainted during class, but even then nobody thought that it might be diabetes. It was discovered by sheer chance by a friend of my parents’ friend, who was a doctor. We were visiting them at their dacha, and the doctor recognized the illness — which was already at a very advanced stage — just by looking at me. She had a hunch, and the tests proved her right.”

Diabetes centers

are located at:

1. City clinic no. 77.

261 Prospekt Obukhovskoi Oborony

2. City clinic no. 17.

56/1 Novocherkassky Prospekt

3. City clinic no. 86.

8/1 Ulitsa Sofii Kovalevskoi

4. City clinic no. 117.

5/1 Ulitsa Simonova

5. NovoVita Center

33/2 Grazhdansky Prospekt

6. Diagnostics and Consultancy Center no. 85.

29/4 Ulitsa Leni Golikova

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