Frequently Asked Questions

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Usual symptoms include thirst, passing urine frequently and tiredness. However, these symptoms often have other non-worrying causes. Many people have diabetes without having any symptoms and without knowing they have it. This is why it is so important for people to have screening tests if they are at risk.

Diabetes is a condition that is characterised by an above normal level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. It is also characterised by either a relative or absolute deficiency of insulin. This is because the pancreas does not make enough insulin, or insulin becomes ineffective. Insulin, a hormone generated in the pancreas, normally controls blood sugar levels and allows the glucose to enter the cells in the body to provide energy. In type 2 diabetes resistance to insulin is aggravated by obesity. In people with diabetes, high levels of glucose remain in the bloodstream causing hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar). Those at increased risk include individuals who have a history of diabetes in their family, people over 40, those who are overweight or obese and inactive individuals. Many people with type 2 diabetes are overweight and obese and this is an important factor in causing diabetes.

The modern treatments for type 1 and type 2 diabetes makes it possible to live a near normal life, but of course, some things have to change such as eating carefully, exercising, monitoring blood glucose, and scheduling and planning. Your doctor and dietician will be able to answer all the questions you have, as learning to manage your diabetes can be stressful in the beginning. Remember that just as diabetes can affect your quality of life, your quality of life can affect your diabetes. If you take good care of yourself by eating a healthy balanced diet and exercise regularly, then you take care of your diabetes too.

Insulin is a hormone, produced by the pancreas, whose main action is to enable glucose to be transported from the blood into the body cells where it is used for energy. Insulin acts like a key to let glucose from the food we eat pass from the blood stream into the cells in the body to produce energy. All carbohydrate foods are broken down into glucose in the blood When the body doesn’t produce insulin, the cells are unable to absorb glucose and as a result, it remains in the bloodstream, causing an increase in the blood-sugar levels or hyperglycaemia. Glucose is the body’s major source of energy so increased glucose levels in the blood can cause symptoms such as excessive thirst, hunger, weight loss and fatigue. Over the long-term, high glucose levels are associated with damage to the body and failure of various organs and tissues.

Obesity is widely regarded as the number one risk factor for type 2 diabetes . Extra body weight means a higher risk of insulin resistance, because fat interferes with the body's ability to use insulin. Weight gain results in an increase in fat inside the abdomen – the so-called visceral fat that cannot be seen or felt. The presence of this fat changes the metabolism of the body to predispose it to the metabolic syndrome, which includes diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

Diabetes brings with it serious complications related to the heart, eyes, blood vessels, kidneys, feet, and nerves. Diabetic eye disease, including diabetic retinopathy, is a key cause of blindness, occurring as a result of long-term accumulated damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. After 15 years of diabetes, approximately two percent of people become blind, and about 10 percent develop severe visual impairment. Diabetic neuropathy is damage to the nerves as a result of diabetes and affects up to 50 percent of diabetes sufferers. Although many different complications can occur as a result of diabetic neuropathy, common symptoms are tingling, pain, numbness, or weakness in the feet and hands. Combined with reduced blood flow, neuropathy in the feet increases the chance of foot ulcers and eventual limb amputation. Diabetes is among the leading causes of kidney failure. Approximately 10-20 percent of people with diabetes die from this complication. Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. People with type 2 diabetes are more than twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as people who do not have diabetes. Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death for people with diabetes and accounts for around half of all deaths in some countries. Overall, the risk of premature death among people with diabetes is at least double of those without diabetes. According to statistics, mortality linked to diabetes mellitus constitutes 31 percent of the deaths in the UAE. Worldwide, diabetes and its complications are major causes of early death in most countries. However, estimating the exact number of deaths due to diabetes is challenging because more than a third of countries do not have any data on diabetes-related mortality and it is not always easy to determine if diabetes was the primary cause of death.

Yes, there is an increased risk of developing diabetes with obesity – this includes children. The most important thing parents can do is to encourage their children to lead a very active lifestyle with regular exercise. This can be anything from playing a sport regularly to a simple daily 30 minute brisk walk or even doing a household chore. Parents must ensure that their children have a healthy diet which includes low fat and nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. At the same time parents should limit sugary foods and drinks like sweets, chocolate and fizzy drinks. If you’re worried that your child may be overweight and at risk of developing type 2 diabetes you should see your doctor or dietician and they will be able to advise you how to best to manage your child’s weight and general health.

For the majority of people with type 2 diabetes it is perfectly safe to fast during Ramadan provided that you prepare well and talk to your doctor. However it is not safe for everyone with diabetes to fast. Your ability to safely fast will depend on your medication. It will also depend on how well your diabetes is controlled, especially if you’re prone to either frequent high (hyperglycemia) or low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia).

You must realise the importance of your medical assessment before you start, especially if you are taking any medication. Your doctor will guide you to create a fasting plan that works for you.

People with type 1 diabetes are at a higher risk compared to those with type 2 diabetes when fasting during the Holy Month of Ramadan. It is very important that type 1 diabetes patients intending to fast are closely supervised and have their blood sugar regularly monitored to mitigate health risks.

No, you do not need to eat differently. In fact, the Ramadan diet should be kept simple and not much different from your normal daily diet, with the only difference being the time you eat rather than the quantity or type of food consumed. Follow the Healthy Plate Method to make sure you eat a balanced diet.

Iftar is the meal that breaks the fast, just after sunset. It is important that it remains a meal and not become a feast. You must also be very aware of the need to drink enough to remain hydrated during fasting hours.

One other thing to be particularly aware of is the risk of increasing blood sugar levels after Iftar, especially with sweet foods. Your doctor will be able to advise you on good foods for Iftar and Suhoor.

People of most ages are affected by diabetes. In recent years, we have seen a rapid spread over all age groups, especially in Type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition and mostly develops before adulthood and remains with them throughout their life.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is mainly brought on by an unhealthy, inactive lifestyle, weight gain, and genetics. Childhood obesity is known to increase the risk of developing type 2diabetes in adulthood.

There has been an increase in type 2 diabetes in younger people because of the same factors that affect adults --namely obesity linked to physical inactivity and an unhealthy diet. Type 2diabetes in children is fast becoming recognized as a global public health issue with potentially serious health outcomes.

However, the 40-59 age group is still the largest for people with type 2 diabetes. In the UAE we are hopeful that through our public health campaign ‘Diabetes-Knowledge-Action’, we will be able to help children and adults alike living with, or at the risk of developing diabetes to adopt a healthier lifestyle and to reverse this trend.

Current estimates and future projections for the next decade have indicated a female predominance in the number of persons with diabetes. The female numbers are about 10 per cent higher than for males. There is also a higher proportion of women with pre-diabetes. The female numbers are about 20 per cent higher than for males.

It has been estimated by International Diabetes Federation (IDF) that globally more than half of all people with diabetes are unaware of their disease. Most of these cases are type 2 diabetes. There is a similar trend in the UAE as the IDF estimates that just under half of the people with diabetes are unaware that they are sufferers.
Click here to check the latest figures from the IDF.

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