Diabetes, its treatment and its proliferation across the globe, was the subject of the latest installment of Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar’s (WCM-Q) – a Qatar Foundation (QF) partner university – Grand Rounds series.
The lecture, ‘Diabetes, The Ticking Time Bomb’, was delivered by Dr. Alexandra Butler, adjunct professor of medicine/endocrinology at the Diabetes Research Center, part of Qatar Biomedical Research Institute (QBRI), a research institute under Hamad Bin Khalifa University, a member of QF.
More than eight per cent of the global adult population have diabetes – around 366m adults – but with three new cases diagnosed every ten seconds, that figure is projected to rise to 552m by 2030. As in Qatar – in which the prevalence of diabetes is well-documented and higher than the global average – the majority of cases involve type 2 diabetes, although cases of type 1 diabetes are also rising.
Dr. Butler explained how the two types present themselves differently. Type 1 diabetes tends to have a rapid onset and symptoms are often severe; whilst there are two peaks in incidence, in preschool and teenage years, type 1 diabetes can occur at any stage of life. By contrast, the onset of type 2 diabetes is typically slower, often occurring over several months, with symptoms that vary in severity. A family history of type 2 diabetes is more often present in new sufferers, and whilst the disease usually strikes people over the age of 20, there is a recent trend for type 2 diabetes to appear in the teenage and even pre-teen years.
However, although different in their clinical presentation, both type 1 and type 2 can cause the same microvascular complications, typically nephropathy, neuropathy and retinopathy.
“Why does distinguishing between the two types matter? Well, it’s down to the treatment,” said Dr. Butler said. “Type 1 diabetes must be treated with insulin whereas the treatment of type 2 diabetes always starts with lifestyle management. If that is inadequate, then usually the drug metformin is considered to be the drug of choice; after that, you have a range of drugs to choose from, one of which may be insulin, although this usually comes later in the treatment plan.”
Dr. Butler also discussed future treatment options, notably stem cell therapy for the treatment of diabetes, something that is being actively pursued in the Diabetes Research Center Stem Cell Group at QBRI.
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