Health Officials Say Diabetes On the Rise in Laos

Woman performs self-monitoring of blood glucose (Photo: Freepik)
Woman performs self-monitoring of blood glucose (Photo: Freepik)

Health experts say diabetes is increasingly prevalent in Laos due to changes in lifestyle as the country develops.

Diabetes is on the rise among individuals of all ages according to Dr. Amphayvanh Manivong, Deputy Chief of the Pediatric Ward at Vientiane’s Mahosot Hospital, who spoke to the Laotian Times last week.

“We see a lot of type 2 diabetes these days since the country has begun developing, with everyone’s diets changing. People get less exercise because they rely more on cars and public transportation rather than cycling or walking,” said Dr. Amphayvanh.

She suggested that people can avoid developing type two diabetes by exercising regularly, as well as being more mindful about what they eat.

“Non-diabetics should exercise for 30 minutes to an hour, three times per week. However, I advise diabetic patients to do so every day for the same amount of time, as well as to be mindful of what they consume,” she added.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), type 2 diabetes is a result of the body’s ineffective use of insulin. Type 2 diabetes affects more than 95 percent of diabetics. This kind of diabetes is related to high body weight and inactivity.

Dr. Amphayvanh says that type 1 diabetes cases often went undetected in Laos because hospitals in the country lacked the technology to test for the disease.

“We have recorded 74 patients with type 1 diabetes over the last six years. Type 1 cases used to be very rare up until 2016 when we received technological assistance from the United Kingdom, which has allowed us to diagnose more type 1 cases,” said Dr. Amphayvanh.

She said that type 1 diabetes is usually detected in children who are born with the disease, although its origin is still unknown.  Experts believe it may be brought on by an autoimmune reaction causing the body to attack itself by mistake.

Dr. Amphayvanh said that medical professionals rely mostly on social media to raise awareness regarding diabetes.

But Head of the Endocrinology Department at Setthathirath Hospital, Dr. Chanthone Xaysanavong, told local media in a separate interview that the growing number of diabetes patients in Laos shows that public awareness programs have been ineffective.

He also said that the number of patients seeking treatment for diabetes at Setthathirath Hospital has shot up, particularly among those who are ill-informed on how to prevent diabetes, which frequently has no symptoms until it has grown to an advanced stage.