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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

Diabetes conference highlights problems in UAE, region

The disease is not under control in the UAE, and many cases are still undiagnosed, experts said at the Best of American Diabetes Association conference in Dubai.

DUBAI // Diabetes in the UAE is not under control and many such cases remain undiagnosed locally and in the region, experts at a Dubai conference said on Thursday.

The Best of American Diabetes Association conference seeks to promote the latest medical research on the disease.

Dr Abdulrazzaq Al Madani, the president of the Emirates Diabetes Society, said the Middle East and North Africa had the highest prevalence of diabetes in the world, accounting for at least four of the top 10 countries.

He attributed the severity of the cases to patients’ inability to control and monitor their condition.

Referring to a recent study that randomly selected 250 diabetes patients, Dr Al Madani said it showed that only 23 per cent of the patients controlled their disease properly. The rate of control in the West is 50 per cent.

“Without control, complications occur,” he said. “As complications occur with patients, we will have a higher burden, both health-wise and economically.”

The UAE spends almost Dh25 billion annually on fighting diabetes, significantly more than most countries, according to Dr Al Madani.

Genetic predisposition and the pervasiveness of unhealthy habits are the leading factors in the rise of diabetes in the region.

Although science had yet to completely figure out how to alter genetic predisposition, diabetes patients could improve their chances of staying healthy by changing their lifestyles, said Dr Al Madani.

“Before, people had physical jobs. They would move every day,” he said. “Now they take their car, even for a short distance. Any exercise is good, walking, jogging or swimming.”

But Dr Al Madani said there was reason to be hopeful. In the past 25 years, he has seen an improvement in the ability of patients and governments to keep diabetes under check.

Dr Leigh Perreault, a professor of endocrinology, metabolism and diabetes at the University of Colorado, stressed that diabetes was not a modern disease, but modern lifestyles were causing a global increase in diabetes.

“Diabetes has been known as a disease since the time of Hippocrates, and people still don’t really understand it very well,” she said. “But it is becoming a bigger problem that we don’t understand it better than we should today, because it is affecting people all over the world more than ever.”

In addition to new medication, experts must use their skills and tools to detect the disease, said Dr Perreault.

“We need tools to help us in the screening diagnosis and treatment of diabetes in order to combat this global epidemic, and one set of tools is Standards of Care 2014,” she said.

Standards of Care, a publication of the American Diabetes Association, reviews articles on diabetes annually.

The articles provide doctors and healthcare professionals with the latest research findings.

Dr Perreault said the first step in caring for patients with diabetes was to find them.

A big part of this year’s Standards of Care focuses on advising doctors on the characteristics of individuals with diabetes or who are at risk of developing the disease.

“Diabetes is a global epidemic,” she said. “That is why we are here today to come together as a team to fight this by organising guidelines in screening, diagnosing and preventing diabetes.”

Dr Al Madani advised diabetes patients to seek medical advice on their fitness to fast during Ramadan.

nalwasmi@thenational.ae