Effectively controlling diabetes requires close monitoring of the glucose levels. Technological developments such as smartphones and continuous glucose monitoring are extremely useful in this regard. Nonetheless, there are other obstacles to broader use of such technologies in South Africa. Health science has made tremendous strides over the last twenty years in how we diagnose, treat and recover from all sorts of ailments.
Diabetes treatment requires careful control of glucose levels to prevent serious complications that can lead to hospitalization. From the early 20th century until the 1960s, glucose control has included urine testing.
Glucose monitoring eventually developed into electromechanical strips, enzymatic checks and finally continuous glucose monitoring, requiring no fingerstick testing, as well as insulin pumps self-regulating. Now there are applications which can help them track their health while gaining a greater understanding of diabetes and healthy lifestyles.
"These apps can be very useful , especially when glucometers connect through Bluetooth to the phones,"says Dr. Zane Stevens, a specialist physicist and endocrinologist at the Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital in Cape Town.
According to the International Diabetes Federation, the prevalence of diabetes in adults in South Africa is 12.8 per cent with the highest prevalence among Asian and colored populations. We also project that in sub-Saharan Africa, as a result of urbanization and obesity, the number of diabetics will rise by 140 per cent by 2040. It is because there is not sufficient clinical proof that glucose control changes results in patients on oral medications only, "Stevens says.
Sadly, more advanced devices such as continuous glucose monitoring, which can be quite helpful for patients on several regular doses of insulin, are less readily reimbursed by medical aids, which greatly limits access." Although we have 11 official languages, and most diabetic apps are in English, there is a need for concerted government effort to create apps in all of these languages. Popular diabetes medicines linked to higher probabilities for serious complication
The coronavirus pandemic has promoted e-health use, which will allow patients to use such devices which messaging systems to send data to their healthcare professionals without having to visit them directly.
"There are a range of great apps available, but mainly we use MySugr because this can link up with a variety of different testing machines and provides fantastic reports that can be sent to us directly from the app prior to appointments."
Another helpful free app is Diabetes Words, a Type 2 Diabetics Companion App for their caregivers that offers valuable information about how to treat the disease using simple, easy to understand language. Stevens says smartwatches such as Fitbits can promote exercise, which is good for diabetics but the most important thing to track is diet, particularly for diabetics of type 2 who need to control their weight.
"I also want continuous glucose monitoring to be more available, particularly to people with type 1 diabetes, and we are continuously placing pressure on medical aids to see the benefits this brings to improving glucose regulation and thus preventing long-term complications.
While great advances have been made in glucose testing and information storage technology, the most important thing is that patients are well-educated on what to do with that information. Patients need to learn what their expectations are for glucose and speak to their healthcare providers if they fail to meet these goals.
This article first appeared in health24.