A study by researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) has shed new light on the relationship between diabetes risk factors and microvascular complications that can lead to blindness, kidney failure, and nerve damage, ultimately leading to lower limb amputation.

WHO infographic on diabetesThe research, led by Dr Ravinder Mamtani and Dr Sohaila Cheema of the WCM-Q Institute for Population Health (IPH), surveyed 1,034 adults at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) outpatient clinics in Qatar and found that 48% had one or more microvascular complication.

Microvascular complications arise from damage to small blood vessels caused by high blood sugar levels. They commonly affect areas of the body that have high concentrations of small blood vessels, such as the eyes (retinopathy), kidneys (nephropathy) and nerves in the extremities (neuropathy).

The study, entitled Risk Factors for Microvascular Complications in a High-Risk Middle East Population, found that the risk factors most associated with these microvascular complications include having a family history of diabetes, severity of disease, disease duration, and hypertension (high blood pressure). Onset of the disease at a young age was strongly associated with having multiple microvascular complications.

The study collected information via a structured questionnaire and by reviewing patient records, where permission was given, on a wide range of variables, including gender, education level, nationality, family medical history, duration of disease, BMI, smoking status, hypertension history, and cholesterol levels. A total of 534 respondents had no microvascular complications, while 318 reported suffering one complication, 140 patients had two, and 42 had three respectively.

Like many Gulf countries, Qatar has a high prevalence of diabetes. Earlier studies conducted in Qatar have shown that between 13% and 17% of adults in Qatar have the disease, while the global level is about 8.5%, according to the World Health Organisation.

Dr Mamtani said that the complications of diabetes can be absolutely devastating, and they wanted to use the study to get a clearer picture of the nature of the diabetes disease burden in Qatar.

The results gave us many useful insights that could help physicians assess the likelihood that their patients will develop diabetes complications. These results could also be utilised to give some useful indications of the diabetes disease burden in the wider Gulf region and the rest of the Middle East.’

The study, which also featured contributions from researchers at the HMC Department of Internal Medicine, New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York and the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy, has now been published in the Journal of Diabetes Research.

Dr Cheema said they hope that their research will provide useful information that could be used to target healthcare interventions more effectively, as well as provide insights that could help individual patients better understand their condition and make positive lifestyle changes to reduce the likelihood of  major diabetes complications.

The work was supported by IPH, WCM-Q and Qatar Foundation through the WCM-Q Biomedical Research Programme.

Visit qatar-weill.cornell.edu for updates and more information about the research programme at WCM-Q.