UAE | Health

Type 1 diabetes patients at a higher risk when fasting

The key to safe fasting is regular monitoring of insulin for Type 1 diabetes patients

  • By Carolina D’Souza, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 17:30 August 2, 2012
  • Gulf News

Diabetes
  • Image Credit: Getty Images
  • Type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system of the body destroys certain cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes need to take special care when fasting

Dubai: Residents with Type 1 diabetes are a higher risk compared to Type 2 when fasting during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

Supervised fasting and blood sugar monitoring are mandatory to mitigate these risks among insulin-dependent patients, unlike Type 2 diabetic patients who aren’t insulin dependent, according to doctors.

If insulin is absent, the body begins to utilise fat as an energy source, leading to life threatening conditions. Too much or too little insulin can be dangerous as well

Dr M. Hamed Farooqi, director of the Dubai Diabetes Centre at the Dubai Health Authority

Dr M. Hamed Farooqi, director of the Dubai Diabetes Centre at the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) cautions that there could be life-threatening risks if the time and dosage of insulin isn’t adjusted during the fasting period. Speaking to Gulf News he explained that Type 1 diabetic patients cannot produce insulin, a hormone needed to regulate carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body and control blood sugar (glucose); they need insulin doses every day.

“If insulin is absent, the body begins to utilise fat as an energy source, leading to life threatening conditions. Too much or too little insulin can be dangerous as well,” said Dr Farooqi.

Dr Belal Al Shammaa, Director, Consultant Endocrinologist, Diabetes Center of Excellence, American Hospital, Dubai, told Gulf News that incorrect dosage of insulin could result in serious conditions.

“Hypoglycaemia occurs when blood sugar is too low. Some symptoms include blurry vision, low concentration and nausea. Another condition is ketoacidosis that could occur if the body doesn’t have enough insulin. When cells do not get the glucose they need for energy, the body burns fat, producing ketones or acids. High levels of ketones can lead to diabetic coma or death; symptoms include frequent urination, dry mouth and shortness of breath.”

Dr Khawla Belhoul, consultant physician and director of the Thalassaemia Centre at the DHA told Gulf News that fasting is more challenging especially for teens with Type 1 diabetes. She is also the founder of Sweetkidz, a non-profit support group in Dubai, established in 2003, that empowers parents of children with Type-1 diabetes.

She said teens and young adults tend to have a lifestyle characterised by erratic eating habits, peer pressure and lack of routine. Therefore fasting is more difficult for them, placing a greater emphasis on the correct and timely insulin dosage to avoid complications.

She highlighted the role of parents in helping young adults lead a safe fast. “I have a daughter with Type 1 diabetes. My advice to parents is not to push a child to fast. When he or she is old enough, help monitor their blood sugar, and encourage them to break the fast if they experience any worrying symptoms.”

She added, patients should exchange experiences with other patients, and rely on blood sugar readings rather than a “feeling” of wellness.

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