The International Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Diabetes (Ispad) event draws doctors from around the world to discuss advances in care for children and young adults.
The Ispad conference is the first to be held in the Middle East in its 40 years. It reflects the UAE's status as a centre for treatment, as well as the prevalence of diabetes in the region.
“Diabetes is a huge problem,” Dr Asma Deeb, the conference president, told The National on Saturday.
"The incidence is high and getting higher, with Type 2 becoming more common because of obesity,” said Dr Deeb, who is also the division chairwoman of paediatrics at Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City in Abu Dhabi.
It is estimated that as many as one in five people in the UAE have diabetes, according to statistics from Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, and that number is expected to double by 2040.
Diabetes causes a person's blood sugar level to become excessively high and can lead to kidney failure, heart attacks, blindness, strokes and limb amputation.
Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes in the UAE, with obesity and smoking linked to the illness. Doctors also blame a sedentary lifestyle and high consumption of junk food.
They say lifestyle changes such as an improved diet and more exercise can prevent diabetes and should be widely encouraged. Regular health screenings are also encouraged.
“This is the only society that deals solely with paediatric diabetes,” said Dr Deeb. “We wanted the conference here to promote treatment and education but also the incidence here is pretty high, among the highest in the world.”
During the four-day event that started on Thursday, delegates will hear talks from specialists on examining obesity in children, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on those with diabetes and the prevalence of depression in children and adolescents with diabetes.
The event will discuss methods of treatment from broader fields of medicine, including stem cell therapies, antiviral medicine and certain cancer therapies. Big data and artificial intelligence are on the agenda, particularly wearable devices that use algorithms to deliver treatment.
“We have also added an area on patient advocacy, where representatives can express concerns about patient care and highlight gaps,” Dr Deeb said.
“The aim of the conference is to promote collaboration, to share expertise and highlight advancements.”