UAE: When 10-year-old Hala started complaining of fatigue coupled with dry mouth, tummy aches and the frequent need for urination, her mother started to worry.
After visiting her doctor, her fears were not unfounded, as they confirmed Hala was indeed suffering from type 2 diabetes.
With World Diabetes Day kick starting on November 14, awareness of childhood diabetes has been pushed to the forefront of the campaign.
Besides being hereditary, doctors say that the single greatest risk factor for type 2 diabetes in children is excess weight and they confirmed that this could be the reason for Hala’s condition. Hala’s mother, Fauzia, spoke of the diagnosis: “I was very worried at first because I could not imagine how my little girl would live with the condition her entire life.”
Fauzia continued: “But over time, Hala has learnt how to manage the diabetes well and she has taught me too. Her school is very cooperative.”
In order to regulate her blood sugar levels, extra care has to be taken when managing Hala’s diet and exercise schedule along with regular insulin intake.
With early weight increase and low physical ativity the biggest risk factors for the onset of diabetes at a young age, powerful marketing campaigns targeting young children, too frequently prompt them to consume food items with quantities of sugar and fat that far surpass their physiological needs.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), these campaigns flood school canteens and vending outlets with harmful food items, just as levels of physical activity are plummeting – especially amongst the younger generation.
This increase in unhealthy behaviour has led to a rise in the number of overweight and obese children and adolescents, worldwide, and this year’s slogan for World Diabetes Day – “Diabetes: Let’s protect our future” – aims to motivate a nation of ‘can’t be bothered’ children.
In the UAE, one in five people aged between 20 – 79 years old live with diabetes. This year, the UAE ranked 10th in the world for diabetes prevalence. The diabetes crisis is straining the financial resources of the country with its treatment accounting for approximately 40 per cent of the country’s overall healthcare expenditures at Dh24.22billion last year – higher than any other country in the GCC – according to a study commissioned by international consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.
The story of Maram Dalab, is no different from Hala’s.
Maram was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just four days before her eighth birthday. “Diabetes has not stopped me from carrying on with my life,” says the teenager. “I go riding, ice skating and do everything that anyone my age would do,” she added.
The eldest of three, 19-year-old Maram is one of the most active members of the SweetKidz Diabetes Support Group – a group founded by Dr Khawlah Belhoul, consultant Haematologist and Director of the Thalassemia Centre at Al Latifa Hospital, that providing information to diabetic children.
Maram is also the Ambassador of ‘My Diabetes Story’ Patient Ambassadors Group. Based in the UAE, the group helps patients with diabetes develop actions to better manage their disease, ensuring that people with diabetes can lead fulfilling lives.
Work has started on strengthening laws to limit the marketing of unhealthy food items in countries in the region including the UAE, according to a press statement from WHO’s Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean.
The health body is also helping countries regulate nutritional value of items presented in school canteens and school vending outlets, and protecting the environment in which children can safely enjoy physical activity and sports.
“For years now, the WHO has been stressing the importance of providing a safe environment in which children can grow with the least possible exposure to risk factors which can impact negatively on health. However, there is evidence that such exposures are in fact increasing,” it says.
One in five diabetic patients in the UAE who develop foot ulcers need amputation and these patients are usually between the ages of 30 to 50 years old. This problem is seen across nationalities, according to Dr Marwan Al Zarouni, Head of Plastic Surgery and Wound Care at Rashid Hospital.
Persons living with diabetes also have an increased probability of developing a number of cardiovascular conditions and need regular screening in order to avoid vision disorders, which may result in blindness or kidney failure. Leisure activities of diabetic patients are limited by the disease, as they have to comply with strict foot hygiene guidelines to avoid infection.
“Many complications can be associated with diabetes but one of the worst effects of the disease can be witnessed on the feet. 25 per cent of all diabetics end up with foot ulcers,” he said.
People with foot ulcers should use medical shoes that help manage the ulcers. However, the high cost of these shoes can be a deterrent. “The minimum cost of a pair of these shoes is $1,000 (Dh3, 670) as the shoes are custom-made with an indent filled with silicone gel cushioning, so that there is less pressure on the ulcers,” he said.
@ Khaleej TimesNov 2012