Diabetes Millitus is an extremely common non-commutable disease (NCD) that exists in every country- and Japan is no exception. In fact, diabetes has been on the rise in Japan and it is getting the recognition it deserves.
Diabetes in Japanese is 糖尿病 which is read as [too/nyou/byou] and is made up of 3 kanji: 糖- sugar,尿- urine, and 病- sickness so it is a decent translation.
There are a suspected 10 million people who suffer from diabetes in Japan but there are only 78.7% of men who receive treatment and 74.1% of women who receive treatment- but the difficulty is there are an additional 10 million who are at risk of becoming a diabetic. Additionally there are more than 300,000 people who regularly undergo dialysis.
There are 2 main types of diabetes which are simply called:
- type 1
- type 2
Type 1 is an immunodeficiency disorder (which means the body attacks its’ self) where the immune system is destroying pancreatic beta-cells that are responsible for producing insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to inject insulin for survival.
Type 2 can be a few things but it is generally the body’s inability to cope. For example, the body either in unable to cope with the amount of insulin it produces (i.e. too little) or the insulin it does produce cannot properly interact with receptors on the cell membrane and take in sugar.
Other types can include gestational diabetes- diabetes during pregnancy, diabetes which is due to other conditions e.g. endocrine disorders, liver disease, drug or chemically induced etc.
Additionally, there is idiopathic diabetes is diabetes without a known cause. Idiopathic comes from 2 Greek words: ἴδιος (one’s own) and πάθος (suffering).
In Japan, a singular blood test is not enough to be diagnosed as a diabetic. One of the required symptoms of diabetes is chronic hypoglycemia or long-term high blood sugar (慢性低血糖).
After this symptom has been observed and a HbA1c test performed (which gives the average blood sugar level over a 3 month period), further tests are performed which are:
- a fasting blood test. Diabetes is suspected if the result is greater than 126mg/ dl (which is greater than 27.0 mmol/l )
- An oral glucose tolerance test (a 2h test) and if the result is greater than 200mg/ dl (or greater than 1.11 mmol/l)
The Japanese problem
With the westernization of Japan and the influence of the Japanese diet, in addition to reduced physical activity- Asia and Japan are going to be the epicenter of global diabetes.
Japan has sugar in everything and the Japanese diet is extremely carbohydrate heavy (rice) which encourages poor control and helps the development of type 2 diabetes. Additionally, the estimated cost for diabetic treatment is 400,000 JPY a year and even with the national health insurance discount, this is a whopping 120,000 JPY a year. While this is cheap for Americans in Japan, anyone from a country with a funded health system, this is an extraordinary expense.
Diabetes education and awareness
There are a few diabetes organisations in Japan that are actively working to promote health living and help people who have already been diagnosed with diabetes. However, there is still a lot more to be done. The main source for this information is the Japanese diabetes society (information in English and Japanese). Please check out the “further information” page for further links and reading.
Thank you for reading and happy exploring.
Final note, the following is a list of diabetes vocabulary and the Japanese translation.