By PMA RASHEED
12 Nov 2010, The Gulf Today
About 26 per cent of diabetics in the UAE suffer from the risk of nerve pain making it a leading and costly healthcare problem for the UAE, warn pain management experts ahead of World Diabetes Day, which falls on Nov.14.
According to them, diabetic nerve pain is a major challenge for the UAE with around a quarter of diabetics at risk of the complication. This number rises to 50 per cent for those who have had diabetes for more than 10 years.
Dr Mohamed Saada, consultant neurologist at Zayed Military Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said that the condition, a painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy, affects more than 400,000 people having type-2 diabetes in the UAE, although research reveals that not all patients report their symptoms.
“Diabetes is reported to affect up to one fifth of the UAE’s adult population, which was estimated to have hit 8.19 million in May 2010. This means that right now around 1.6 million people in the UAE suffer from diabetes,” he added.
“Approximately 409,500 of these diabetic patients could be suffering from nerve pain and needing treatment,” noted Dr Saada.
According to him, the complication occurs due to damage to the nerves as a result of raised and uncontrolled blood glucose levels seen in diabetics.
“It presents as either a burning pain, numbness or tingling in one or more of the limbs. The pain can be very severe with some patients not even able to tolerate the weight of their bed sheets on their thighs,” he said.
“The pain associated with the diabetic neuropathy varies in severity depending on the type of nerve damage caused. The pain can be localised to the feet or can spread up the legs to the knees and to the waist and trunk. It can involve one limb or all four limbs and sometimes there can be facial or back pain,” he elaborated.
“However,” Dr Saada pointed out, “despite suffering severe pain, many patients fail to seek medical help due to cultural conventions that frown on voicing concerns over pain. As a result, only around 10 per cent of patients with painful diabetic neuropathy seek medical help.”
Dr Ammar El Salti, Consultant anaesthetist and pain management expert at the ZayedMilitary Hospital in Abu Dhabi said, “The local population fails to come forward for treatment due to social constraints, even when diabetic nerve pain is having a detrimental effect on their quality of life.”
“Chronic pain causes physical disabilities, as well as sleep disturbances, insomnia and mood disturbances, eventually plunging into anxiety and depression damaging the quality of life,” he warned.
According to him, pain-sufferers also have to take time off work which costs the country’s economy millions of dollars.