ABU DHABI // More than two-thirds of parents in a survey admit their children have not been screened for diabetes despite a family history of the disease.
The survey carried out for Al Aan TV's Nabd Al Arab (Arabs' Pulse) and The National by YouGov found that of 999 parents, 52 per cent had a family history of diabetes.
But 70 per cent of those parents said their children had not been tested to see if they were affected.
That is very worrying, said Dr Ahed Bisharat, consultant paediatrician at Abu Dhabi's Burjeel Hospital.
The earlier diabetes is diagnosed, the sooner treatment, diet and exercise regimes can begin, helping to delay or prevent complications.
"It is a matter of quality of life," Dr Bisharat said.
Complications can include sight and kidney problems, and damage to nerves and vessels in hands and feet, which can eventually lead to gangrene and amputation.
"Their immune system can also be affected," Dr Bisharat said.
All parents should have their children screened, he said, because of the high prevalence of diabetes in the UAE, but it is especially important if there is a family history of the disease.
The test, which requires a simple prick on the finger to obtain a blood sample and measure the glucose level, can be carried out by a family doctor or at a hospital.
Children are usually tested for Type 1 diabetes because Type 2, which is linked to diet and lifestyle, is rare in youngsters.
The test can be performed at any age but if there is a family history it should be done as early as possible, even at one or two years old, said Dr Bisharat.
Parents should also watch for the symptoms of diabetes.
"If parents notice that their children are drinking too much water or passing urine too often, they need to take them to any health centre to measure their blood sugar," he said.
Of the 30 per cent of respondents who took their children for screening, 20 per cent of the youngsters tested positive for diabetes, while 12 per cent were borderline.
Dana Shadid, Al Aan project manager, said that the survey highlighted the need for parents to be better informed about diabetes.
"Parents need to learn more about the disease," he said.
The survey showed that most parents knew little about the disease, "and most probably do not look after themselves to begin with, which explains why their children have not had a check up".
* Nabd Al Arab is on Al Aan TV at 8pm tonight