Diabetes is such a common condition that almost all of us are aware of the term at least, and most of us know that it has something to do with blood sugar levels. But the concern lies in the numbers. Every year the number of diabetic patients are going up and the age groups which are prone to get diabetes are coming down considerably- from 40’s to early 20’s. So what are the reasons behind this?
Besides family health history, and unhealthy food and sedentary lifestyle are the major contributors to this unwelcome guest. Connector has spoken to some of Dubai’s top medical professionals to keep our readers informed and updated on diabetes.
What is diabetes?
Dr. Katia El Sibai, Consultant in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at HealthBay Polyclinic said, “Diabetes is a disease which occurs because the body is not responding to insulin or isn’t producing enough or any insulin (which is the hormone responsible for the regulation of the blood sugar levels). This results in elevated blood sugar levels.”
Different types of diabetes
Dr Ilaria Saredi, Family Medicine Specialist at Allied Medical Centre said, “There are 3 main types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational Diabetes. People with Type 1 Diabetes do not make enough insulin from their pancreas, while Type 2 Diabetes patients are not responsive to insulin and may or may not make enough of it. Insulin is needed to let our bodies cells feed on glucose (the main food of body and brain). When there is too little insulin, or our cells do not respond to it, the glucose in the bloodstream increases. Gestational Diabetes is the presence of diabetes during pregnancy. This can then go away after delivery or may persist.”
No early signs
Dr. Idrees Mubarik, Specialist Endocrinology, Aster Hospital said, “Unfortunately, there are no early signs/symptoms of diabetes. It is predominantly an asymptomatic disease at least to begin with. Though there are certain symptoms which should lead to suspicion of having diabetes like excessive thirst/urination/hunger/weight loss despite overeating and recurrent infections etc., these symptoms occur mostly when diabetes is already overt rather than in early stages. That’s why it is recommended to check blood glucose for all people especially those who are overweight or obese, annually.”
Health problems associated with diabetes
Dr. Sana Kausar, Family Medicine at King’s College Hospital London - Medical Centre in Jumeirah said, “Diabetes over time can cause multiple problems with your health. The high level of glucose in the blood causes damage to the tiny blood vessels in your heart, kidneys, and eyes, as well as your nerves. The most serious risk is of having a heart attack or stroke, which can occur 10 years younger than the general population. This is why it is so worthwhile to make the changes necessary to control your lifestyle.”
Dr Ilaria Saredi of Allied Medical Centre said, “Patients with diabetes suffer from an excess of sugar in their blood stream. This wreaks havoc to several important components and organs of the body, and can cause nerve damage, with pain or loss of feeling in certain parts of the body (often hands or feet), kidney disease, vision problems (even blindness at a later stage. Loss of proper circulation through damage to blood vessels and nerves can result in the need to amputate fingers, toes or other parts of the body.”
Damage the retina and kidney
Dr Sara El Ghandour, Specialist Endocrinologist at Mediclinic Dubai Mall said, “Diabetes mellitus if untreated or not controlled to target can have multiple adverse effects on the long term. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause retinopathy - damage the retina and affects vision and it can cause nephropathy- malfunctioning of the kidney filtration that can progress at later stage to kidney failure if left untreated.”
Other eye diseases and infections
Dr. Idrees Mubarik of Aster Hospital said, “Diabetes causes a specific type of eye affliction called as diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to blindness. Besides retinopathy, diabetes also causes cataract, glaucoma and dry eye. Diabetes also increases the chances of having infections, like urinary infections, respiratory, skin and genital infections.”
How can diabetes be treated?
A normal body mass index
Dr. Katia El Sibai of HealthBay Polyclinic said, “A healthy, portion-controlled diet including intake of complex carbohydrates and exercise (at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity) to help achieve a normal body mass index are the mainstay of the lifestyle changes required for the treatment of diabetes.”
Dr Ilaria Saredi of Allied Medical Centre said, “Diabetes can be controlled and treated in different ways depending on the type of diabetes, and the stage at which it is discovered.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetic patients need insulin therapy to supplement the lack of insulin produced from the body. This may be in the form of insulin injections or an insulin pump (worn on the body and connected via a tube to your skin where the pump injects the medicine directly). Blood sugar levels need to be measured several times daily in order to inject the right quantity of medication.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetic patients may need oral medication or can also be in need of insulin injection at a later stage of the disease when the pancreas no longer produces insulin. A correct diet can also play an important part in diabetes management.”
Dr Zain Gulzar, Consultant Endocrinologist and Medical Director of the RAK Diabetes Centre in Dubai said, “Overall control of diabetes is measured by a test called HbA1c (the same test that is used to diagnose diabetes). The value for HbA1c should be 6.5% to 7% or less to be considered as good control. As an example an increase in 1% over this number (so from 7% to 8%) will lead to approximately 30% increase in the risk of diabetes complications.”
How to avoid diabetes
Dr Sara El Ghandour of MediClinic Dubai Mall said, “Diabetes can be prevented, stabilised at early stages or even reversed to prediabetes by patients efforts. If patient is overweight or obese he is advised to lose weight (at least 5% of weight loss), decrease the consumption of sugar and moderation of carbohydrates intake, regular exercise (150 minutes a week).”
Healthy and portion-controlled diet
Dr. Katia El Sibai of HealthBay Polyclinic said,” Healthy, portion-controlled diet should include food with fibres including vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, moderate amount of fruits and avoiding extreme fad diets. Having a good diet and exercise routine will help maintain a normal body mass index, which can prevent or delay the occurrence of diabetes.”
Dr. Katia El Sibai further added, “Screening is key, to check for diabetes or prediabetes, and should be done in patients at high risk of having the disease (overweight, sedentary lifestyle, family history of diabetes, gestational diabetes, etc.)”
Diabetes facts and figures in the UAE
UAE has the second highest incidence in the world
Dr. Sana Kausar of King’s College Hospital London said, “Diabetes is too common, and the UAE has the second highest incidence in the world. (19% of the population). It is estimated that if things continue as they are, by 2020 over 30% of the adult population in the UAE, both UAE nationals and expats may have diabetes or pre diabetes. Type 2 Diabetes used to be an illness affecting older people over 40, but this trend has changed with the higher rate of obesity and sedentary lifestyles, and now it is also found in children.”
Number of cases are on the rise
Dr Sara El Ghandour of Mediclinic Dubai Mall said, “Epidemiological studies in the UAE are lacking, some reports indicates that prevalence of diabetes in UAE citizens is reaching 20% compared to a prevalence of 4% worldwide. Number of cases are on the rise and is contributing to the “diabetes epidemics”, secondary to increased prevalence of obesity, temptation of the market for unhealthy food, sedentary life (more office work, less excersice).