CUHK Research Reveals Young People with Normal Body Weight May Also Suffer from Diabetes Timely Treatment within 5-Year Golden Period may Help Prevent Complications
A research conducted by the Hong Kong Institute of Diabetes and Obesity at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) reveals that one in five diabetes cases are young-onset, with an average age of onset at 30. Among them, 30% have normal body weight, indicating that young and slim individuals may also be at risk of having diabetes. CUHK suggests members of the public have regular checkup, so that the disease can be treated timely within the ‘5-Year Golden Period of diagnosis’, which is crucial to reducing the risk of complications such as blindness, kidney failure, diabetic leg amputation and developing most cancers. Treatment options include blood glucose control, emotional management and medications.
There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes is about abnormal immune destruction of pancreatic cells whereas type 2 diabetes is due to combination of the resistance to insulin, and impaired insulin release by pancreas. Nowadays, there are about 10% of Hong Kong populations suffering from diabetes, while type 2 diabetes accounts for 95% of all diabetes cases.
Young-onset diabetes generally refers to diabetes diagnosed before the age of 40. It accounts for 20% of the diabetes population in Hong Kong and is becoming more prevalent. By 2030, the number of young-onset diabetes cases is expected to double. As young-onset diabetes usually appears at the prime of one’s life, various complications arising from the illness may cause distress to the patients and their families.
The Hong Kong Institute of Diabetes and Obesity at CUHK conducted a research on young-onset diabetes from 1995 to 2009, in which cases of 10,000 diabetes patients were analysed. Results show that 20% of diabetes cases are young-onset, with an average age of onset at 30. Among them, 30% have normal body weight, indicating that young individuals with normal body weight are also at risk of suffering from diabetes.
Prof. Juliana C.N. CHAN, Professor of Medicine and Therapeutics and Founding Director of Hong Kong Institute of Diabetes and Obesity at CUHK, said ‘Young-onset type 2 diabetes is 5 times more likely to progress to end-stage kidney failure and 15 times more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases when compared to young-onset type 1 diabetes. Life-threatening complications may appear progressively at around age 60. ‘About 50% of young people with diabetes have high blood pressure and 75% have high cholesterol level. When compared to older-onset diabetes, young-onset diabetes is associated with 48% increased risk of cardiovascular disease and 35% increased risk of kidney disease. These warning signs should not be ignored.'
Dr. Andrea O.Y. LUK, Honorary Clinical Assistant Professor of Department of Medicine and Therapeutics at CUHK remarked, ‘Family history of diabetes and personal lifestyle are important risk factors of the disease. About 50-60% of young-onset diabetes patients have immediate family history. If either one’s mother or father has diabetes, one’s risk of diabetes increases 3 times; if both parents have diabetes, the risk increases 6 times. Rapid lifestyle changes, uncontrolled diet and lack of physical exercise all account for the rising prevalence of diabetes among the young people.’
Diabetes is a chronic disease without obvious symptoms at early stage. Complications of the disease will cause irreversible damage to the body. Dr. Wing-yee SO, Honorary Clinical Associate Professor of Department of Medicine and Therapeutics at CUHK said, ‘we should be aware of our blood glucose level and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Regular checkup is also important to allow early diagnosis and timely treatment within the 5-Year golden period.’
The Hong Kong Institute of Diabetes and Obesity reminded that diabetes patients should not obtain over-the-counter drugs to control the disease, as medications need to be adjusted from time to time according to the changing insulin levels. Patients should receive assessment on the development of complications.
The CUHK team has been engaged in research about early-onset diabetes for over 20 years and developed comprehensive assessment. The Hong Kong Institute of Diabetes and Obesity was founded in 2005 and has been providing comprehensive assessment service for the community through its Yao Chung Kit Diabetes Assessment Centre. Patients are welcome to use the ‘Diabetes Prediction and Diagnosis Service’ provided by the Centre so that they can receive proper treatment as soon as possible. For detailed information or to make an appointment, please call the Centre hotline at 2647 8806.