Little Help for Pakistani Diabetic Children
Life has dealt children with type 1 diabetes a poor hand, and with medical science still unclear on what causes the disease there is no prospect of prevention in sight and little hope of a cure in the near future. However if the child lives in a developing country he faces even more problems, often having no access to effective medical help and advice.
Ongoing medical research has revealed much about this disease, which affects around one in every 400 among children and teenagers in theUS, but has so far failed to turn up the vital clues necessary to produce a cure. Diagnosis of type 1 diabetes typically occurs before the age of 20, condemning the patient to a lifetime of dietary deprivation and regular injections of insulin. And if the sufferer fails to control his blood sugar levels well the disease carries with it the threat of serious complications. Heart disease, kidney failure, strokes, blindness and nerve damage resulting in gangrene and amputation may be the result. Low blood sugar may be as hazardous as high levels, leaving the child weak, confused and unwell, and possibly leading to diabetic coma. A diabetic child with low blood sugar may wander away, unaware of where he is, or may walk into traffic or other dangerous situations.
For the diabetic child life may be filled with frustrations as he watches his friends enjoy candy, ice cream, cookie and other sugary and high carbohydrate foods while he is handed a healthier but less appetizing snack of fruit or a plain cracker. While other children carry just their lunches and books to school, he has to be sure he has his medication, special snacks for low blood sugar and his medic alert bracelet. Teachers and carers have to be aware of his condition and what to do in an emergency. It is easy for him to feel different and left out in school or social situations.
But western diabetic children do at least have the best medical care, with access to doctors and nurses, advice and coaching, plentiful supplies of medication and hospital care when they need it.
A recent report fromPakistanshows diabetic children there may fare a lot worse, with few doctors there specializing in the disease and medication costly and difficult to obtain. There are not even current statistics on the numbers of children with type 1 diabetes in the country, according to Dr Gulbin Shahid, a specialist in childhood diabetes at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences inIslamabad. Dr Shahid said the country does not even presently have dieticians who can draw up proper diets for diabetic children or trained nurses to care for them.
Perhaps even more worrying is her statement that, with proper medical care unavailable or unaffordable, many parents of diabetic children take them to folk healers or quacks, which could lead to misdiagnosis and the death of the child.
The institute is doing its part to raise public and medical awareness of the condition, and 150 patients have so far registered with a special type 1 diabetes clinic set up there five years ago. It is believed there are around seven million diabetics inPakistan, and around ten per cent of these are statistically likely to be type 1.
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