This young man wants you to know that diabetes is not an older person’s disease

by SammyJanuary 26, 2021

Diagnosed in his 20s, Philasande Zungu quickly had to come to terms with living with diabetes. The initial shock has turned into a determination to educate others.


A young KwaZulu-Natal man has issued a warning to his fellow South Africans— if you experience a slew of symptoms such as blurred vision, frequent urination, increased thirst and hunger and general listlessness, it could be the onset of diabetes.

Thirty year-old Philasande Zungu could not believe it when these symptoms began to manifest in his late 20s. Doctors diagnosed him with diabetes in 2018.

“I couldn’t believe that at my age I have diabetes,” he said. “I thought that maybe there was some sort of misunderstanding or file mixed up. It was very difficult to accept that I will now have to take medication for the rest of my life which is the thing I would never imagine.”

That is because Zungu, like others in his community, thought of diabetes as an old person’s disease. Now he feels he has to educate people in his hometown of Mandeni and further. Meanwhile, he is also just learning to live with the illness.

Understanding diabetes

“Being diagnosed with diabetes is very challenging because you can’t cope with full time work,” he shared. “The body is not fit enough to qualify you in other job opportunities especially the tough ones such as construction, driving and gardening because of the unfitness.”

“You can’t even perform well sexually, you can’t eat whatever you want, every time you have to think diabetic, diabetic, diabetic,” said Zungu.

Zungu still has to contend with many negative myths about diabetes. These myths and misunderstandings can be dangerous, preventing people from seeing the seriousness of the disease or getting life-saving treatment.

There are three main types of diabetes. Type One is where the pancreas does not make insulin at all which means daily injections. Type Two diabetes is regarded as less serious where the pancreas produces insulin but not at the correct amount to keep the body healthy. The third is Gestational Diabetes which is a temporary condition affecting women during pregnancy.

Zungu suffers from Type One diabetes and needs long-acting insulin treatment that he administers as an injection twice a day. He also has to monitor his blood sugar levels before and after meals to minimise the chance of  rapid change. He must take action swiftly or could slip into a coma.

“You can’t run away from this disease once you are diagnosed with it but you can control it,” he added.


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