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LAHORE, Nov 12: Senior medics of various specialties have termed diabetes a rampantly increasing disease in the country mainly due to unhealthy lifestyle and predicted that the current 12.8 per cent prevalence rate in Pakistan is likely to be doubled in next 20 years if preventive measures are not adopted.

They were talking to Dawn in connection with the World Diabetes Day being observed tomorrow (Wednesday) globally.

King Edward Medical University Pro Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Asad Aslam said according to National Survey of Blindness and Low Vision 2005 the prevalence of diabetes-related blindness was 0.5 per cent, meaning 90,000 people out of 1.5 million turned blind because of diabetes. The national survey is conducted after every 10 years.

“Now it has been observed that diabetes is gradually becoming an emerging cause of blindness among people which is a matter of grave concern,” Prof Asad said, adding that high prevalence of diabetes resulted in early development of cataract, high incidence of glaucoma and eye infection.

Quoting a study on diabetes, Allama Iqbal Medical College former principal and professor of medicine, Dr Javed Akram, said unhealthy lifestyle was a leading cause of diabetes among the people in Pakistan. “The adult population is prone to diabetes due to multiple factors, mainly physical inactivity and unhealthy eating habits.”

Prof Akram, who is also author of a study published by the name of ‘Prevalence of diabetes in Walled City,’ has come up with a result that more than 50 per cent diabetic patients were unaware of their disease.

“The prevalence of diabetes is alarmingly high in Pakistan and is likely to be doubled in next 20 years. Diabetes is number-one cause of blindness among people in our country and similarly it is a leading factor in renal failure and amputations,” Prof Akram said.

He said it also was most important risk factor for heart disease and stroke as well. He called for urgent measures on the part of both public and the government.

He blamed the ‘fast food mafia’ for massive increase in prevalence of diabetes among adult population.

“The marketing of multinational companies in fast food has damaged our food culture as well as social life to irreparable degree,” he said.

He said unabated opening of fast food restaurants offering upsized food items followed by soft drink like fried potatoes, burger, fried chicken etc. was leading to diabetes among children who were already deprived of opportunity of physical activity. He said a majority of schools did not have infrastructure for physical activities.

Talking about insulin, Prof Javed Akram said: “It is a matter of concern that in Pakistan physicians as well as patients are reluctant to use insulin due to ‘needle phobia’ that existed in the mind which has led to diabetes which remained uncontrolled in majority of patients.

He said early insulinization could save a lot of precious lives as well as body organs including kidneys, eyes, heart etc.

To a question about worldwide research on the alternatives of insulin, Prof Akram said nasal insulin still remained a far cry due to its side effects and FDA, USA had forbidden its use.

Senior kidney doctor and Professor of Urology, Dr Mumtaz Ahmad, termed diabetes a common and leading cause of renal failure.

“Around 30 per cent diabetics face renal failure and the ratio is alarmingly high”, Prof Mumtaz said and advised the patients to take preventive measures for controlling diabetes to avoid risk of the vital body organ’s failure.