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Millions at risk of vision loss, renal failure, limbs’amputation due to uncontrolled diabetes in Pakistan: experts

By M. Waqar Bhatti
September 25, 2023

LAHORE: Uncontrolled diabetes among millions of diabetics is now resulting in vision loss due to ‘diabetic retinopathy’, which is one of the several complications of the lifestyle disease, experts said and urged all the adult Pakistanis to get themselves screened for the diabetes as early as possible.

They said it is estimated that around 40 million people were living with diabetes in Pakistan at the moment as Pakistan is ranked first in the prevalence of diabetes in the world, while it has the largest population of diabetics following China and India, adding that around 10 million were feared to have no knowledge about their diabetes status in Pakistan.

“Most of the people with diabetes in Pakistan visit the doctors and consultants only when they already have complications of uncontrolled diabetes including diabetic retinopathy, which result in vision loss. Similarly, their kidneys, heart, gums, feet and nerves also start getting damaged without their knowledge,” Prof. Syed Abbas Raza, a renowned diabetologist said at a ceremony organised by Discovering Diabetes project regarding the establishment of 25 digital clinics for diagnosis and treatment of diabetes across Pakistan.

On the occasion, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Discovering Diabetes and Dream Diabetes projects to collaborate in identifying the undiagnosed diabetics across Pakistan and providing them standardised medical care through digital clinics under the supervision of trained and qualified medical consultants.

Dr Abbas Raza maintained that amid growing number of diabetic patients, there is an urgent need for collaboration among healthcare professionals and different segments of the society to share the burden on healthcare system. The gigantic challenge dealing with fast spreading diabetes cannot be handled by any segment of society alone, so collaborations among different organisations is the only solution, he added.

He explained that how the chronic disease is affecting the healthcare system of the country and life span of common man and lauded the efforts made by the Discovering Diabetes team for the valuable contribution as well as connecting patients with healthcare facilities for the treatment of diabetes.

Launched in 2021 in collaboration with the Pakistan Endocrine Society (PES) and local pharmaceutical firm Pharmevo, the Discovering Diabetes project is aimed at reaching out to over 10 million diabetics in Pakistan who are still undiagnosed and due to complications of the disease, facing severe complications including risk of amputations, renal failure, heart attack and mental health issues.

“In Pakistan, people as young as 20 to 40 years are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes due to sedentary lifestyle, consuming unhealthy diet, sugary drinks and physical inactivity,” said Dr Raza.

“Diabetes is not like an infectious disease which can be treated with antibiotics alone. In order to control diabetes, one should modify his or her lifestyle by resorting to physical activity on daily basis, eat balanced and low-calorie diet and take medicines as per directives of the physician. And most importantly, we need to make people aware and this initiative by Discovering Diabetes is one of the most valuable contributions.”

Renowned anchor and Brand Ambassador Discovering Diabetes Waseem Badami, who moderated the session, called it a major step from the Discovering Diabetes to reach out to the people and make them aware about their health and lifestyle.

The deputy chief executive of a local pharmaceutical firm Pharmevo and Discovering Diabetes project lead Syed Jamshed Ahmed briefed the session about objectives behind launching the initiative.

“Being a part of corporate sector and too from pharma industry, it’s our utmost responsibility to make people aware about their health life,” he said. “We’re not here only to sell medicines and make money. I believe it’s our moral and social responsibility to make our contribution as part of solution. We see closely that how this disease is becoming monstrous challenge for our society and health system.”

He said in addition to their toll-free helpline – 0800-66766 – for the diabetes awareness and assistance, they were having collaborations with the universities throughout the country to track and trace missing diabetics, create awareness and were using all means of the communication to urge people to adopt healthy lifestyle.

He maintained that since the launch of the Discovering Diabetes project in 2021, around 5 million people had been approached by them through medical camps, special awareness campaigns, print and electronic media as well as social media. He added that they were planning to continue their quest of undiagnosed diabetics to put them on treatment.

“Pakistan is spending 2.6 billion US dollars annually on the management of 33 million diabetics. It’s high time for support of the pharmaceutical industry, healthcare professionals and civil society to join hands to meet the growing challenge,” he added.