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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Mum sends out diabetes warning after son's shock diagnosis

Jacqueline Visser admits she thought the condition only affected the unfit and obese

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. It can be countered by regular insulin injections. The National
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. It can be countered by regular insulin injections. The National

A mother wants to educate parents about childhood diabetes after being shocked when her seemingly healthy son was told he was suffering from the disease at the age of eight.

Jacqueline Visser admits that, like many parents, she believed the condition only affected the obese and unfit.

But doctors told Aden he had Type 1 diabetes in August and will need medication for the rest of his life to manage the condition.

He had been going to the toilet a lot more than normal and lost four kilograms in weight in three weeks.

Mrs Visser, who lives in Dubai and is from South Africa, now wants to help other parents to recognise the signs and symptoms, and show diabetes is not always a result of an unhealthy lifestyle.

“When we took him in, his body was starving in a state of ketosis and he spent eight days in hospital,” she said. “It was traumatic. My first reaction was, ‘how can he have diabetes, he’s so healthy?’”

Aden is learning to cope with regular insulin injections to avoid the rapid rise in sugar levels, and has had to overcome a fear of needles. Insulin is covered under health insurance but testing kits are not – and they are expensive.

“It costs Dh250 every two weeks, so it is not cheap,” Mrs Visser said. “It is not something we had considered but he is playing sport and trying to live a normal life.”

Aden is a keen swimmer and is on the school team, but his body needs constant monitoring during exercise.

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Sadaf Ahmed, the doctor at Deira International School in Dubai, which Aden attends, said pupils and parents often had misconceptions about the causes of Type 1 diabetes.

“We have five children at our school with Type 1 and they are good examples of how it can be managed,” Dr Ahmed said. “People perceive it to be related to poor diet or inactivity.

“Families face challenges when dealing with Type 1 such as the costs of treatment and the impact on the child, but these can be overcome.”

The school is hosting a “blue day” to mark World Diabetes Day, with one of the topics being the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Although both are chronic conditions affecting the way the body regulates glucose and blood sugar, they differ in the way they are managed.

Type 1 is an autoimmune condition where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. It can be countered by regular insulin injections.

Obese people are more at risk of Type 2 diabetes, the more common of the two conditions, where small levels of insulin are produced in the body. The condition can be managed through diet and exercise.

“We want to showcase the impact of Type 1 diabetes and the absence of knowledge in the general population,” Dr Ahmed said.