Prompt diagnosis by doctors at the Al Bateen Healthcare Centre facility helped the five-year-old boy. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Parents must be aware of the signs and symptoms of diabetes, which can leave children at serious risk if the disease is undiagnosed or left unchecked, UAE officials have said.

The Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) urged better awareness while sharing the story of a five-year-old Emirati. The young boy had been brought to the public health provider’s Al Bateen Healthcare Centre facility by his father, who was worried that his son was feeling poorly, showing signs of exhaustion.

Dr Baraa Arwani, specialist paediatrician, who treated the boy. Image Credit: Supplied

Subtle symptoms

Dr Baraa Arwani, specialist paediatrician at the facility, said the patient was not feverish when he was brought in. But he has been complaining of mild abdominal pain for two days before visiting the doctor, and had been drinking more water than usual.

“The boy’s vital signs were normal, although there were signs of tiredness and dehydration. After some investigation into his medical history and a physical examination, I suspected he was diabetic. So I ordered blood glucose and urine tests. These confirmed my suspicions: his blood glucose levels were very high, and his urine results showed that he was in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a serious condition that can lead to a coma and sometimes life-threatening complications,” Dr Arwani added.

Warning sign

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is often the first warning sign of Type 1 diabetes. It occurs when insulin in the body is so low that glucose cannot be used as a fuel by body cells, so it burns fat for fuel. This however produces ketones, which are toxic when accumulated, and make the blood acidic. Early diagnosis is critical as symptoms can deteriorate very quickly, and can lead to the patient falling into a diabetic coma.

“The patient was immediately transferred to the Emergency Department at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), another SEHA facility, to manage the condition. He was admitted and properly managed, especially as laboratory results showed that he was in severe diabetic ketoacidosis,” Dr Arwani said.

Follow-up care

In turn, the boy’s father was thankful for the smooth, timely and proper patient care provided at the two facilities.

Dr Nadeem Abdullah, consultant paediatrician at SKMC, said: “The patient was admitted to SKMC for two days, and we managed to stabilise his condition with insulin and close monitoring of his blood glucose. Upon discharge, we educated the parents about the correct insulin injection technique, glucose monitoring at home, and the importance of eating a healthy balanced diet. This will be accompanied by regular checks at our diabetes clinic.”

Dr Omar Al Jabri, chief medical officer at Ambulatory Healthcare Services, SEHA’s public clinic wing that manages Al Bateen Healthcare Centre, said: “At SEHA, we ensure the provision of comprehensive diabetic services from early detection and diagnosis to diabetic patients’ follow-up and treatment to enable them to control the disease. In addition, we ensure patients undergo periodic preventive screening for potential complications of the disease. Equally important is the practice of referring diabetic patients to other specialties such as nephrology, cardiology, ophthalmology, neurology, nutrition, and podiatry, both within our healthcare centres and SEHAs hospitals.”