Diabetes screening among South Asians must improve

Improved screening and concordance are crucial to tackling poor diabetes outcomes for people of South Asian descent, a leading researcher has urged

Retinography: South Asians face significantly increased risk (Photograph: ISM / Science Photo Library)
Retinography: South Asians face significantly increased risk (Photograph: ISM / Science Photo Library)

Professor Anthony Barnett of the University of Birmingham called for the UK's South Asian population to be screened earlier for diabetes, and backed more aggressive treatment targets.

Giving the Banting Memorial Lecture at last week's Diabetes UK conference in London, Professor Barnett said: 'We need aggressive treatment of BP and lipids, perhaps lower targets for those with established complications.'

Intense glycaemic control was vital in the early years of the disease, he said. Professor Barnett added that higher complication rates in this population were also related to concordance to treatment.

'We know there are many studies showing that people of South Asian extraction are less likely to take as much physical activity as white European populations and less likely to take the pills,' he said.

'What we don't know is whether this is due to disengagement or poor knowledge or a combination of the two. We need masses more research in this population and to get them involved in research.'

The prevention of diabetes in people of South Asian descent also needed to improve, Professor Barnett said. Counselling and advice on the dangers of first-cousin marriages, along with addressing environmental issues, including dietary and cultural issues was key, he said.

Compared with white Europeans, the risk for type-2 diabetes is increased threeto six-fold among people of South Asian descent in the UK, Professor Barnett said.

People in this population die around seven years earlier than their white European counterparts with the disease, he added.

CHD deaths and events occur 10 years earlier in this group, he said. 'They have a similar prevalence of microalbuminuria, but the progression to overt proteinuria is more common and more rapid in South Asians,' he added. 'They also have a significantly greater risk of any retinopathy.'

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