By Aisyah Sulaiman
KUALA LUMPUR - Children growing up 30 years ago would not have known the meaning of the word diabetes. But now, children as young as 5 are at risk from this life-threatening disease.
National Diabetes Institute (Nadi) executive director Prof Datuk Mustaffa Embong said the number of children afflicted with this condition was on the rise.
"Children as young as 5 years old are now suffering from adult type diabetes.
"It is especially common among young girls as statistics show that they are more susceptible to the disease."
Mustaffa said the reason more children were suffering from diabetes could be because they were overweight and lack exercise.
"It is especially (significant) for children who have a parent who is diabetic or have a family history of the illness.
"Parents who are at high risk or are diabetic must take their children for screening and it can be done even when they are still toddlers."
Mustaffa was speaking at the launch of the first-day cover of Nadi's "Fight Diabetes" stamps, held in conjunction with its healthcare fair and exhibition at the Mid Valley Exhibition Centre, here, yesterday.
Also present was director-general of Health Datuk Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman.
Dr Hasan said the disease affected people from all age groups and backgrounds and it was the most common cause of non-traumatic amputation and kidney failure.
"The best thing to do is to get a screening, especially if you are at high risk of getting the disease."
Dr Hasan said diabetics would not normally show any symptoms of the disease until up to five years later.
"An estimated three million adults in the country are currently suffering from diabetes and the majority of them do not show any symptoms of the disease.
"Every year, up to 70,000 cases of diabetes are reported and 30 per cent of those who died before the age of 60 are diabetics," he said.
Dr Hasan added that most Malaysians were not taking the situation seriously and were still refusing to go for health screenings.
He urged non-governmental organisations to participate in raising awareness of the disease and also helping out those who are suffering from diabetes.
The healthcare fair and exhibition will be held for two days at the exhibition centre and the "Fight Diabetes" stamps are available in four different designs.