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UAE parents not screening children for diabetes despite family risk

More than two-thirds of parents admit that their children have not been screened for diabetes despite the disease running in the family.

ABU DHABI // More than two-thirds of parents admit that their children have not been screened for diabetes despite the disease running in the family.

A survey compiled for Al Aan TV's Nabd Al Arab (Arabs' pulse) programme and The National by YouGov found that of 999 parents, half (52%) had a family history of diabetes.

But two thirds (70%) of those parents said their offspring had not been tested to determine whether they were also affected.

That, according to Dr Ahed Bisharat, a consultant paediatrician at Abu Dhabi's Burjeel Hospital, is very worrying. Parents should get their children tested to detect the condition as early as possible, he said.

The sooner it is diagnosed, the sooner treatment and correct diet and exercise regimes can begin, helping postpone or prevent the onset of serious complications. "It is a matter of quality of life," he added.

Complications can include problems with sight and the kidneys, as well as the peripheral nerves and vessels in the fingers, hands and feet, which can lead to numbness and eventually gangrene and amputation. "Their immune system can also be affected," he added.

He said all parents should get their children screened for the condition, because of the high prevalence of diabetes in the UAE, but especially if there is a family history of the disease.

The test, which involves a simple prick on the finger to measure the blood glucose level, can be carried out by a family doctor or at a hospital. "It is simple," he said.

In children, it is usually used to test for Type 1 diabetes, as Type 2 - which is linked to diet and lifestyle - is very rare in children.

It can be performed at any age but if there is a family history it should be done as early as possible, as young as one to two-years-old, added Dr Bisharat, who is from Jordan.

Parents should also keep an eye out for the symptoms of diabetes. "If any parents notice that their children are drinking too much water or passing urine too much, they need to take them to any health centre to measure their blood sugar," he said.

A third (30%) of parents had taken their child for screening. Of those, a fifth (20%) tested positive for diabetes, while 12% were borderline. Two thirds (68%) were given the all-clear.

Dana Shadid, Al Aan project manager, said the survey highlighted the need for more parents to be educated about diabetes.

"Parents need to learn more about the disease," she said. The survey showed that they probably know little about the disease, "and most probably do not look after themselves to begin with, which explains why their children have not had a checkup'.

jbell@thenationalae

ecleland@thenational.ae

Nabd Al Arab is on Al Aan TV at 8pm on Saturday

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