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Government of Jamaica

Illnesses Covered

Diabetes & Diabetes Programme

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes often referred to as “sugar “ in Jamaica is a disease that impairs the body’s ability to use food. The hormone insulin (which is made in the pancreas) is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. In people with diabetes, either the pancreas doesn’t make insulin or the body cannot use insulin properly. Without insulin, sugar – the body’s main energy source – builds up in the blood. The cause of diabetes is a mystery, although both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles.

The pancreas, an organ near your stomach, produces insulin. The pancreas contains cells called beta cells. Beta cells have a vital job: They make insulin, a hormone that helps cells take in the sugar they need. Sometimes, the beta cells get wiped out and cannot produce insulin anymore.

There are two major types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 – Most often appears during childhood or adolescence. People with Type 1 diabetes must take daily insulin injections to stay alive.

Type 2 – Most often appears after age 40. However, it is no longer considered an adult-only disease. Type 2 diabetes is linked to obesity and physical inactivity—both of which can be modified to improve health.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Persons with diabetes may experience either symptoms of high blood sugar or low blood sugar.
People who have high blood sugar might have SOME of the following symptoms:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Extreme hunger
  • Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  • Sores that are slow to heal
  • Very dry skin


Persons with Low Blood Sugar might have SOME of the following symptoms:

  • Trembling
  • Dizziness
  • Hunger
  • Sweating
  • Sleepiness
  • Clumsiness
  • Pale Skin
  • Headaches
  • Faint
  • Confusion and irritability

The main goal of the diabetes treatment is to keep blood sugar levels within a target range (not too high, not too low) as much as possible and improve your body’s use of insulin. This means balancing insulin, food, and exercise. Food raises blood sugar levels, while insulin and exercise lower them.

NHF Diabetic Programme

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