In the world of diseases, nothing compares to the effect of diabetes on a person's general health. It creeps silently, gradually causing complications that – if left untreated – can lead to the deterioration of the entire body.
Every year experts gather to tackle the ailment and address new ways of limiting its damages before they become inevitable.
On 18 September, the Arab Diabetes Forum held its annual meeting in Cairo to discuss the latest in the escalating problem of diabetes in Egypt and the Arab world.
The number of diabetics in Egypt currently places the country at a frightening number nine in the worldwide ranking, and is expected to propel it to eighth place by 2030.
The number of diabetics worldwide is 366 million, expected to reach 500 million by 2030.
Dr Abbas Orabi, professor of Diabetics at Zagazig University, stressed that although diabetes is a global ailment, the increasing rate of sufferers remains much higher in the Middle East: a staggering expected increase of 83 percent, according to the International Diabetes Federation, in comparison with the rate of 50 percent in other regions of the world.
Orabi told Ahram Online that although lifestyle plays a role, the confounding increase rate in Egypt and the Middle East compared to other part of the world is not fully comprehensible, adding that genetics may be a probable factor behind the mystery.
Early detection underlined, again!
A constant highlight in diabetes forums is the crucial importance of early detection, and the value of containing glucose levels in the blood to prevent complications.
Dr Ali Abdel-Rehim, professor of Diabetics at Alexandria University, said complications over the years can progress without evident symptoms, which makes regular monitoring and diagnose checkups the only way to prevent them.
“The problem is that people come, complaining of the complications that result from years of diabetes, without even realising they were afflicted by it at all,” said Dr Noha Khater, professor of Ophthalmology at Cairo University.
Dr Eman Rushdi, professor of Diabetics at Cairo University, said that among the complications that lead a person to discover his diabetes – albeit in a late stage – include eye deterioration, symptoms of heart stroke, pains related to the nervous system, and kidney problems.
A new hope
Among the many health complications caused by diabetes, eye complications remain the most common.
"Seventy percent of the patients who come to us complaining of damages to the retina suffer from diabetes," Khater noted. This damage, known as diabetic retinopathy (RD), severely harms eyesight and can cause complete loss of vision in 50 percent of the cases. "Controlling diabetes in the early stages reduces eye complications by 38 percent," she added, emphasising the importance of regular tests and an improved lifestyle since the onset of the disease.
Khater shed more light on the latest and most efficient cure to help contain eyesight deterioration and restore some of its lost performance. In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration approved Ranibizumab eye injections, the first sanctioned treatment for the condition, which not only prevents vision from worsening, but also helps improve it – a result not attainable through previous, laser-based treatment methods.
As for the hefty price of the new drug, Dr Salah El-Sharkawy, vice president of the Novartis pharmaceutical company, stressed that the Egyptian Health Ministry has included the treatment in the insurance bundle offered to its patients, which lifts a burden off the shoulders of the many who cannot afford it.