If you have found this blog, saying Welcome does not really seem appropriate. I know you wish you weren't surfing the internet for diabetes. I felt the same.

A big part of me wishes I were not writing about diabetes, nor did I anticipate to become so opinionated or informed on the subject, but it happened. In 2010, my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

It wasn't really part of the plan… Correction - it was not part of the plan, but it happened. It is not always easy, but I think we are all doing okay, and I hope we continue to do so.

Why the Middle East? I happen to live in Dubai. I don't think that living in the Middle East makes mine or my son's diabetic experience any more unique or challenging than it does elsewhere in the developed world.

I hope you stick around, or read something you like. Feel free to comment and join the conversation, subscribe or follow this blog by liking the Facebook page Diapoint.

Please note: This blog does not give medical advice. I am opinionated, and I share my experiences, but the first rule of diabetes is to follow up with your doctor and/or nurse educator about your care, diagnosis or medication. If you do not have a medical practitioner that is helping you find your way through this crazy world, then do not give up until you find the right one.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Should Diabetics Be Banned From Driving?

The title of this post is the same that the Dubai newspaper, Gulf News used in an article that was published last weekend.

My immediate gut reaction was NO.

Trying to keep an open mind, I read the article, and did some further research before writing this.

While I do applaud that the article for starting with the statement Diabetics should not be banned from driving but be educated about their condition so that they are ready for the challenge when they take the wheel, specialists said, it digressed from there.

It continued to say that diabetics are banned from driving in the US.  This is simply not true.  Diabetics do drive in the US.

Yes, there can be risks involved, and some symptoms may impair a diabetic if they are not careful.  Every state in the US has different laws on driving, but a blanket statement that diabetics are forbidden to drive in the US is false.

Everyone must pass an eye exam - diabetic or not.  In some cases, a letter from a physician that the person is fit to drive may be required.

The newspaper interviewed an endocrinologist at a local clinic who cited that diabetic truck drivers that have to wait a long time at check-points may suffer from hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.  The doctor then goes on to say that "there are smart drugs today that can treat diabetes and no ban on diabetics driving light vehicles is necessary".

It is so important to not have a drop in blood sugar because it can effect judgement, someone may faint, have a seizure or worse.  Obviously this would endanger others on the road too.  There are other complications the article discusses, so yes, it is important to manage your diabetes while driving.

The article emphasizes the importance of eating when this happens.  This is key for any diabetic at any place, any time.  A diabetic driver should always have at minimum a basic diabetic medical kit (glucometer, glucagon and a few other items) a spare juice box and a small non-perishable snack with them; and if driving, in their vehicle to treat a hypoglycemia.  This is a very cost effective treatment.  No "smart drugs" required.

I am not sure what was meant by this reference.  Perhaps insulin is the "smart drug", but whatever it is sounds really expensive and out of reach for someone working on a truck driver's salary. Continuing the discussion about the importance of eating and proper snacking would be much more beneficial for truck drivers at check points.

The article says that 20% of residents suffer from diabetes.  Maybe.

The last time I did a diabetes study, long before my son was born and diabetes was part of my life, the UAE local population had one of the highest prevalence rates of diabetes in the world.  Today,  according to Diabetesuae.ae, the "UAE is ranked 15th worldwide, with 18.98% of the UAE population living with diabetes".

World studies of diseases are typically done on location populations, not the residents or expatriate populations. This 18.98% is the estimated population of Emirates with diabetes.

The website goes on to state that "A sedentary lifestyle and bad eating habits have been cited as the main causes of the increasing prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in the UAE."  It is important to note that Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia had a slightly higher prevalence of Type 2 than the UAE, making it a regional issue for the Gulf.

Based on my previous research and this information, I felt the article needed a little more probing into who that 20% is.  Typically, the drivers referred to in the article are from Pakistan, India, or other Near Eastern countries.  India does have its share of diabetes, but in the context of Indians living in the UAE, I cannot confirm those statistics.

The article mentions that "given the socio-economic background of most patients, many would not have the money to take time to take care of themselves".  This is the statement that really bothered me.  It bothered me a lot.  Why?

In the context of Type 2, which is the bigger issue in this region, it is not money and time that is the factor.  To some extent yes, these resources will play a role in any disease. But they are not the main culprit, or excuse for poor diabetic management.

The number one resource needed to fight Type 2 is education.  The need for diabetes education is universal. Education about healthy eating, exercise and a healthy lifestyle.  Education about diabetes management.

So if I may ask, Gulf News, RTA and the medical community of the UAE.  If there are increasing numbers of road accidents caused by the diabetic population in the UAE, could we please work together to develop an education campaign to target this issue?

A focus on checking blood sugar before getting behind the wheel, carrying proper snacks and a healthy lifestyle will go a very long way.

If you want to read the article that was in the Gulf News, you can find it here

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