Sheikh Moslem, a betel shop owner at Kakrail in the capital, was diagnosed with diabetes 22 years ago. Since then taking medicine and insulin has become an integral part of his life. He suffers from various other diseases as well that are aggravated by diabetes.
Moslem had surgery on his left eye last year. And, one of his toes had to be amputated several years ago.
He has to spend Tk352 every day for medicines and Tk820 for insulin every month.
Moslem's treatment cost comes to around Tk12,000 per month.
"I earn Tk150-200 a day but I have to spend Tk352 every day for medicines. I cannot maintain my family expenditures with my earnings let alone the treatment cost. So, I have to take financial help from my relatives," said Moslem.
"The day I cannot manage money, I cannot take my medicines. I fall ill on such days," he added.
Umme Kulsum, a 63-year-old women, works in a private hospital. She has been suffering from Type-2 diabetes since 2003. She needs to take 4 insulin shots per months, and these four shots cost around Tk3,000. She also needs to take other medicines, and the total cost for all her medication comes to Tk7,000 per month.
There are around 70 lakh people in Bangladesh with diabetes, according to the data of the International Diabetes Foundation.
One in every 10 adults in Bangladesh has been diagnosed with the disease now, says the data.
The Bangladesh Health and Status Survey 2014 revealed that the number of diabetes patients has increased gradually over the last two decades.
Only four percent of the people had diabetes from 1995 to 2000, and that increased by one percent in the next five years, according to the survey.
But, from 2006-2009, it reached nine percent.
People aged between 35 and 50 are most likely to get diabetes, the survey says.
A study by the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), revealed that around 7, 32,934 diabetes patients were treated for the disease in 2016.
Of them, 55,703 patients were admitted to various hospitals, and the rest got treated from the outdoor departments of hospitals, said the study titled 'Health and economic burden of diabetes in Bangladesh: Attention for the higher priorities.'
The annual cost of treating diabetes in the country was Tk1,756 crore in 2016, according to the research published in July 2017.
The average annual treatment cost for a diabetes patient is Tk23,760, says the study.
According to the Diabetic Association of Bangladesh, a diabetic patient needs to spend Tk2000 per month on average for treatment. In this way the total annual expense for treating diabetic patients in the country adds up to Tk16,800 crore.
The research was based on patients who were diagnosed with the disease at different diabetes centres, hospitals and clinics across the country.
Health specialists think that the number of diabetes patients is higher than the figure found in the study, because the people of Bangladesh usually do not go to hospital until they are seriously ill.
Causes for the increasing number of diabetes patients
Mostly affluent people living in urban areas tend to get diabetes.
People's lifestyles have changed because of urbanisation. Junk food and processed food have become popular. Salt and sugar intake has increased due to the consumption of junk and processed food. Physicians say that an uncontrolled lifestyle increases the risks of diabetes.
Abdur Razzak, who carried out the icddr'b's study, told The Business Standard that a huge number of diabetes patients get treated at different hospitals every year, and this is a huge financial burden on the families of the patients.
"Diabetes is ranked sixth among the 10 diseases that cause the most fatalities in Bangladesh," he said.
In 2007, it was in ninth position on the list.
In the last 11 years, the number of diabetes patients has increased by 51 percent, and so has the cost of treatment, Razzak said.
"To reduce the financial burden, a person needs to test for diabetes regularly, and also lead a controlled life," he suggests.
Other diseases caused by diabetes
Diabetes damages the immune system of a human body. So a diabetic person gets affected with other infectious diseases easily. Diabetes also aggravates diseases of the kidney, heart and eyes. Diabetic patients are also more susceptible to strokes and foot ulcers.
Prof MA Samad, head of the urology department at BRB Hospital in the Panthapath area of the capital, said there is also an increase in patients with kidney related diseases because of diabetes.
Around 40 percent of diabetes patients are at risk of getting kidney related diseases, he said.
"Kidney damage can be controlled if diabetes is detected at an early stage," he added.
Diabetes patients have three times the normal risk of getting affected with tuberculosis.
Moreover, 65 percent of diabetes patients die of stroke or cardiac arrest.
Around 40 lakh diabetics are suffering from foot ulcers in the country.
The director of BIRDEM General Hospital, Brigadier General (retd) Md Shahidul Haque Mallik said as diabetes is a lifelong disease, it does cost money.
"But, in most cases, the cost depends on the lifestyle of a patient. If the patient leads a controlled life, he or she will need less medicine and insulin," he added.
Health experts said the government should put emphasis on programmes to build awareness about diabetes and living a healthy lifestyle.