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Manage your diabetics in Ramadan, warns doctors

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Every day during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar, Muslims around the world spend the daylight hours in a complete fast. Muslims observe the holy month of Ramadan by abstaining from all food, drink and oral medications from dawn to dusk, observing fasting, praying and giving to charity which is at the heart of the observance of Islam. It is a time of strict observance where Muslims re-evaluate their lives in light of Islamic guidance.

Given its significance in Islamic faith, not being able to participate in Ramadan due to a health condition can be a devastating blow. Although the Qur’an specifically exempts people with a medical condition from the duty of fasting, many people living with diabetes still choose to fast. According to the EPIDIAR Study Group (Study of Diabetes and its Characteristics During the Fasting Month of Ramadan), it is estimated that 40-50 million people with diabetes, worldwide, will fast during Ramadan, which starts this year on 6 June (subject to the sighting of the new moon).

“Fasting presents significant challenges for people living with diabetes in managing blood sugar levels, which is why patients with diabetes should consult with a healthcare specialist at least one month prior the holy month of Ramadan to find out if they can fast safely,” says Dr Aneesa Sheik, Medical Director of Lilly South Africa.

The lack of food and water during the day, along with a heavy evening meal, can create serious health issues for people living with diabetes. They face major disruptions to their diet and daily routines, which may lead to serious complications among which are low or high blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that there is an increased risk of severe low blood sugar levels for individuals with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, especially for those who change the dosages of their oral medications or insulin1, 2.

A blood sugar level that is too low and left untreated can cause confusion, clumsiness, or fainting, and in the case of severe low blood sugar, can lead to seizures, coma, and even death. A high blood sugar level can damage blood vessels, and over a long period of time can result in serious complications, including irreversible organ damage. In general, fasting is very challenging for people living with diabetes, particularly patients with type 1 diabetes, who are dependent on insulin. Muslims with diabetes who wish to fast must plan diligently for a safe and healthy Ramadan.

Providing healthcare professionals with the right tools and resources, including time and personnel to educate patients and encourage them to discuss a treatment plan for fasting during Ramadan has been a key focus area for Lilly. The “Lilly Diabetes Conversation Map” tool, specific to “Managing Diabetes during Ramadan” was launched in 2013 and used across the country and beyond. The Lilly Diabetes Conversation Map tool was created by Healthy Interactions, in collaboration with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). It has been used in more than forty countries and translated into more than thirty languages.

According to Lilly’s Dr. Sheik, the Lilly Diabetes Conversation Map tool represents an innovative approach to educate patients through conversations facilitated by IDF certified health experts. The map is created specifically for people with diabetes who choose to fast during Ramadan. It helps doctors and nurses guide their patients on how to manage diabetes during the month of Ramadan, understand myths and facts about diabetes, the major complications to watch out for during fasting and the important habits to maintain while fasting.

People living with diabetes who would like to attend a Conversation Map session with a healthcare practitioner to ensure better management of their diabetes during Ramadan can contact Lilly on 011 510 9300 with your suburbs details. You’ll be forwarded details of the educational sessions closest to you.

Healthcare professionals who would like to use the Lilly Diabetes Conversation Map tools for patient group consultations can contact Lilly on 011 510 9300 for more information.

The next Ramadan Conversation Maps public event takes place in Cape Town on the 10 May 2016 from 10am – 2pm at Masjidul Quds Institute, Balu Parker Blvd

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