Diabetes striking young with complications

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 April, 2006, 12:00am

Diabetes is generally classified into Type I and Type II. The former is caused by an auto-immune disorder, with the pancreas failing to secrete insulin to allow the body to use sugar from food as energy. Type II is strongly linked to obesity, with the body using excess fat instead of sugar as an energy source.

Both types leave patients with high glucose levels, leading to obstructions of the bloodstream that can damage major organs, including the brain, heart and kidneys.

In Hong Kong, Type II diabetes is of increasing concern. Type 1 is more prevalent in the west, but both need treatment and proper diet, and can cause the same health complications.

The prevailing rate of obesity among children in Hong Kong reached 13.6 per cent in 2000, according to the Health Department's Student Health Service.

People are getting diabetes at a younger age and their condition is more severe and complex than 15 years ago, says Juliana Chan Chung-ngor, an associate professor at the department of medicine and therapeutics at Chinese University. Chan said earlier this year that she was seeing more patients with Type II characteristics who also had a predisposition towards Type I diabetes. 'These patients didn't produce enough insulin in the first place - the common presentation of Type I diabetes,' she said.

'With the very slow onset of Type II, patients aren't aware of their underlying problem until they eventually come down with symptoms such as blindness and kidney failure after about 10 years.'