All diabetic patients should have their urine checked each year for microalbuminuria, a protein which indicates kidney disease, urged medical experts who attended a conference on renal and cardiovascular care in Abu Dhabi last weekend.
The recommendation comes on the back of growing rates of type 2 diabetes in the UAE where the disease, which is linked to obesity, affects up to 25 percent of the Emirati population according to latest World Health Organisation data. Renal disease is one of the complications of long-term and poorly controlled diabetes, but it can be averted if the condition is picked up and treated at an early stage. To detect the condition as early as possible testing for microalbuminuria should be included in a full annual health check-up for all diabetic patients, said doctors at the Novartis sponsored 2nd UAE Cardio Renal Continuum held at Al Noor Hospital Airport Road (ANHAR).
“Microalbuminuria is detected using a urine sample test and is one of the early signs of the presence of kidney disease. The test can be used to come up with the right interventions, such as health promotion to increase public and professional awareness of kidney disease and its risk factors, and to promote healthy life styles, including regular exercise, healthy eating, and timely utilisation of healthcare access,” said Dr. Ali Abdulkareem Alobaidli, Consultant Nephrologist and Transplant Physician at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, and Chief Clinical Officer for Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA). “For people with diabetes it is very important to undergo screening for kidney disease every year, which involves a simple urine test to detect levels of microalbuminuria. If the test is positive it indicates that the patient is at high risk of developing a serious kidney disease known as diabetic nephropathy, which if left untreated leads to renal failure and the need for dialysis. It also highlights that the patient is at increased risk of developing heart disease,” explained Dr. Wael Al Mahmeed, President of the Emirates Cardiac Society who chaired one of the meeting’s sessions.
Diabetic nephropathy is just one of a list of complications caused by the damage diabetes does to the small blood vessels of the body, which in turn leads to high blood pressure and limits the supply of blood and oxygen to the organs. Other complications include diabetic retinopathy which causes blindness, peripheral neuropathy which causes skin damage in the limbs, especially on the feet, hypertension and heart disease.
“A positive test for microalbuminuria is a good indicator that the vascular system in the body has been damaged by diabetes and that the patient could be suffering from a range of complications, such as diabetic retinopathy and hypertension, as well as kidney disease. If doctors can pick-up the early signs of complications in diabetic patients, and treat straight away, then these serious medical problems can be prevented,” added Dr. Yassin El Shahat, Consultant in Nephrology at ANHAR, who presented at the meeting.
The full annual health check-up for diabetes patients should include tests for blood sugar and cholesterol levels, eye examinations, foot checks using a Doppler scanner to assess blood flow in the lower limbs, body mass index and blood pressure.
Early treatment plans should include medications that lower blood pressure, such as valsartan an angiotensin II receptor antagonist that has also been shown to reduce microalbuminuria in type 2 diabetic patients, independently of its antihypertensive effects. 
“This year’s UAE Cardio Renal Continuum is all about prevention, early detection and treatment of renal and cardiac diseases, a theme that is central to Novartis’ commitment to putting patients at the centre of all its activities,” said Dr Ahmed Amin, Medical Director Novartis Middle East.
More than 100 healthcare professionals attended the conference on 4 June 2010, which was held by AHNAR as part of the hospital’s programme of work aimed at supporting the development of a healthy society and improving the quality of patients’ lives.
“The UAE Cardio Renal Continuum is a part of our sustainable contribution to the creation of a healthy society, by supporting and undertaking initiatives and educational programmes that aim to improve the quality of patients’ lives, which is at the core of our vision as a health care service provider,” concluded Dr. Kassem Alom, Managing Director, Al Noor Hospitals.