When Nada Al Ammari began potty training her firstborn son, she realised something was not right.
The 35-year-old Emirati mother of two suffers from type-1 diabetes and said she had a gut feeling that her son was also diabetic long before he showed any symptoms.
“Within 10 minutes he had passed urine more than three times,” Ms Al Ammari said.
She took her son to hospital, where doctors diagnosed diabetes.
Ms Al Ammari is outspoken about her illness and advocates diabetes awareness.
Like her son, who is now 7, she had the condition diagnosed at an early age.
“When my son was diagnosed, I realised that I was not at peace with my diabetes. I was, like the saying goes, faking it until I made it. Nothing prepares you for this,” she said.
“I was giving lectures but I realised that, while I knew how diabetes affected me, I never realised how it affected the people around me.
"My son’s diagnosis hurt me more than me having diabetes. I knew that there was no affirmative reason for diabetes but I began blaming myself for his illness.”
But she said her son's situation has made her stronger.
“I realised that it was important to seek support. Do not underestimate the effects of diabetes on your mental well-being," she said.
"You have to have a psychologist or a support group or friends that you can talk to who are going through the same problems and most importantly educate yourself.
"There is a lot of information out there on diabetes and how to manage it.”
Dr Soha Saeed, consultant and chairwoman of obstetrics and gynaecology at Corniche Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said medics were able to monitor blood sugar levels during pregnancy.
“Corniche Hospital uses the latest blood glucose meters, which is applied to the mother’s arm and automatically measures and records blood glucose levels for a whole week while she is at her home," Dr Saeed said.
"Based on the readings, a tailored management plan is developed to control the mother’s blood sugar and to monitor the pregnancy on an ongoing basis, ensuring a healthy foetus and pregnancy.”
The World Health Organisation says diabetes was the ninth biggest cause of death in 2019, with an estimated 1.5 million fatalities directly caused by the disease.
About one in 10 of diabetics have type-1, which means the body cannot produce insulin and struggles to regulate blood sugar levels.
Type-2 diabetes is generally characterised by insulin resistance, when the body does not fully respond to insulin.
“Patients with diabetes should pay attention to their health condition, especially the feet, as diabetic foot syndrome (DFD) is one of the most common complications that diabetic patients suffer from," said Dr Muhammad Al-Hussein, an internal medicine specialist at Madinat Zayed Hospital.
"DFD can often develop from a simple inconvenience to complicated debilitations.
“There are three main factors that affect the feet of diabetic patients, the first of which is the lack of blood circulation in the main arteries of the feet; the second factor is diabetic neuropathy as a result of the peripheral nervous system being affected; and the third factor is that infections that occur as a result of all the previous factors.”
Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha), which offers comprehensive treatment plans that allow patients to lead healthy and stable lives, encouraged the public to have regular screenings for the condition.