Diabetes soaring, WHO calls for action

Apr 07, 2016, 6:21 PM EDT
Diabetes testing strips. (Source: bodytel/flickr)
Diabetes testing strips. (Source: bodytel/flickr)
The number of people living with diabetes has quadrupled since 1980 to more than 400 million, according to the World Health Organization. On World Health Day, the organization calls for global attention to the disease that killed 1.5 million people in 2012 alone, and that has seen a huge increase in sufferers over the last three decades. CNN reports:
In its first Global Diabetes Report, the WHO says a "whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach" is required to tackle the disease, which costs an estimated $827 billion annually in patient care and medicine.
Findings of the WHO report were published in the medical journal Lancet, and highlight inequalities between countries, as diagnoses and medicine are more accessible in high-income nations.
Diabetes is a chronic disease caused by the body's failure to produce enough insulin to regulate blood glucose -- or blood sugar.
Raised blood glucose can eventually damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. Abnormally low blood glucose can cause seizures and loss of consciousness.
Type 1 diabetes is not currently preventable and sufferers require daily administration of insulin to survive.
Dr Etienne Krug, the WHO official in charge of leading efforts against diabetes, told the BBC: "Diabetes is a silent disease, but it is on an unrelenting march that we need to stop.
"We can stop it, we know what needs to be done, but we cannot let it evolve like it does because it has a huge impact on people's health, on families and on society."
Failing to control levels of sugar in the blood has devastating health consequences.
It triples the risk of a heart attack and leaves people 20 times more likely to have a leg amputated, as well as increasing the risk of stroke, kidney failure, blindness and complications in pregnancy.
Across the islands of Polynesia and Micronesia, roughly 1 in 4 adults has diabetes -- up 15 percentage points since 1980. And the countries of the Middle East and Northern Africa, where roughly 15% of adults have diabetes, have seen increases in the disorder almost as great.
In 1980, higher-income European countries such as Germany, Italy, Ukraine and Britain were on the top-10 list for numbers of adults with diabetes. By 2014, they had yielded their slots to such low- and middle-income countries as Indonesia, Pakistan, Mexico and Egypt.