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Lilly to support people with diabetes fasting during Ramadan

11 April 2018

Educational Conversation Maps supported by Lilly help medical professionals to guide their patients on how to avoid potential complications with diabetes

As the holy month of Ramadan draws closer, it is estimated that there are 148 million Muslims with diabetes across the world, of whom over 116 million may fast during Ramadan¹, which starts this year on 17 May 2018, subject to the sighting of the new moon, to 15 June 2018.

Muslims observe the holy month of Ramadan by abstaining from food, drink and oral medications from dawn to dusk. Given its significance in the Islamic faith, not being able to fast due to a health condition can be devastating. Although the Qur’an specifically exempts people with a medical condition from the duty of fasting, many people living with diabetes still choose to fast despite the health risks.

“Fasting presents significant challenges for people living with diabetes in terms of managing blood sugar levels, which is why it’s essential to consult with their doctor well in advance of the holy month of Ramadan to find out if they can fast and if so, plan a way to do it safely,” explains Dr. Aneesa Sheik, Medical Director of Lilly South Africa.

“The lack of food and water during the day, along with the heavy meals eaten before and after fasting at suhoor and ifthar can create serious health issues for people living with diabetes, as they are faced with major disruptions to their diet and daily routines. This can lead to serious complications among which are low or high blood sugar levels. Blood sugar level that is too low and left untreated can cause confusion, clumsiness, or fainting, and in the case of severe low blood sugar, can lead to seizures, coma, and even death. A high blood sugar level can damage blood vessels, and over a long period of time can result in serious complications,  including irreversible organ damage. In general, fasting is very challenging for people living with diabetes, particularly patients with type 1 diabetes, who are dependent on insulin.

“If you have type 1 diabetes your doctor will want to ensure that the blood sugar is regularly monitored to prevent any health risks, and may even need to adjust insulin doses according to your food intake and activity. Fasting with type 2 diabetes can also be risky, especially if you have poorly controlled diabetes. It is important to remember that your prescribed medication may also influence your ability to fast. Muslims with diabetes who wish to fast must plan diligently and well in advance for a safe and healthy Ramadan,” explains Dr. Sheik. Providing healthcare professionals with the right tools and resources, including time and personnel to educate patients and encourage them to discuss a treatment plan for fasting during Ramadan has been a key focus area for Lilly.

The “Lilly Diabetes Conversation Map” tool, specific to “Managing Diabetes during Ramadan” was launched in 2013 and is used worldwide. The Lilly Diabetes Conversation Map tool was created by Healthy Interactions. It has been used in more than forty countries and translated into more than thirty languages. It helps doctors and nurses guide their patients on how to manage diabetes during the month of Ramadan, understand myths and facts about diabetes, the major complications to watch out for during fasting and the important habits to maintain while fasting. If you are living with diabetes or have a loved one who is, and would like to attend or learn more about a conversation map session, make a note of the following events:

Date Time Speaker
14 April 2018 10am Dr Nizamia
17 April 2018 10am Dr Musjid-ul Balu

Healthcare professionals who would like to use the Lilly Diabetes Conversation Map tools for patient group consultations can contact Lilly on 011 510 9300 for more information.

References: 1: Diabetes and Ramadan: Practical Guidelines, International Diabetes Federation (IDF), in collaboration with the Diabetes and Ramadan (DAR) International Alliance, April 2016

About Lilly South Africa

Lilly is a global healthcare leader that unites caring with discovery to make life better for people around the world. We were founded more than a century ago by a man committed to creating high-quality medicines that meet real needs, and today we remain true to that mission in all our work. Lilly has been a global leader in diabetes care since 1923, when we introduced the world’s first commercial insulin.

Across the globe, Lilly employees work to discover and bring life-changing medicines to those who need them, improve the understanding and management of disease, and give back to communities through philanthropy and volunteerism.

To learn more about Lilly South Africa, please visit us at


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