Manal Othman, senior diabetes educator at the National Diabetes Center.
DOHA: Many diabetes patients fail to give enough attention to their health until they experience complications, according to a senior diabetes educator at the National Diabetes Center in Hamad General Hospital (HGH).
Diabetes is a major health problem among the Qatari population, however, many diabetic patients underestimate the disease, says Manal Othman at the National Diabetes Center.
“Many patients only start giving the required attention after experiencing complications,” says Othman.
“Many complications of diabetes can be irreversible. The most common chronic complication among the Qatari population is retinopathy, which affects the retina in the eyes. This complication is very serious and may lead to blindness. Such complications usually result from lack of care and not following a doctor’s orders.”
Diabetes patients who don’t, or are unable to, control their blood sugar levels and follow a healthy lifestyle may suffer from chronic complications such as heart attacks and strokes, blindness, kidney failure and amputation.
To avoid these complications it is advised that diabetes patients incorporate physical activity into their daily lives, quit smoking, maintain a healthy weight, maintain steady blood sugar and pressure levels, take medication as prescribed by their physician and follow a healthy diet.
Diabetes complications are divided into two categories: acute and chronic. Acute complications include hypoglycaemia, hyperglycaemia, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and hyperglycaemic hyperosmolar state (HHS).
Hypoglycaemia is the term used to describe low blood sugar. Patients experiencing hypoglycaemia will suffer from a rapid heartbeat, cold sweat, dizziness, anxiety, shaking, increased hunger and blurred vision. Hyperglycaemia is the opposite; blood sugar levels elevate and patients experience extreme thirst, frequent urination and dry and itchy skin.
DKA is the increased acidity of blood due to the accumulation of ketones and results from the body’s inability to use insulin to make energy. This complication mainly affects type 1 diabetes.
“Diabetes patients should be very cautious regarding DKA. It’s a very serious condition and can lead to a diabetic coma,” says Othman. “Warning signs of DKA include fruity breath and a fruity taste in the mouth.”
HHS occurs when blood sugar levels remain high for a long period of time. It is caused by a combination of illness, dehydration and the inability to take traditional diabetes medications due to their effect. Symptoms of HHS include frequent urination, extreme thirst, nausea, dry skin and confusion. HHS may also cause drowsiness and loss of consciousness.
“Patients who experience any of the above complications should contact their diabetic educator for a consultation. If they suspect having DKA or HHS they should go to the emergency department. These conditions present serious risks to the body and may lead to coma,” said Othman.
The Diabetes Center aims to provide patients with guidance and support to manage their own health.
“Our role here at the Diabetes Center is to give patients the guidance, support and education they need. Patients are their own physician when it comes to managing diabetes. Taking medication and preventing its complications by following a healthy lifestyle every day is the responsibility of the patient,” said Othman.