PETALING JAYA: The fear of knowing is among the main reasons why some of Dr Teoh Wei Leng’s patients are reluctant to test for diabetes. “People are genuinely scared of what they might find,” she said.
Speaking with FMT Lifestyle, the endocrinologist from Sunway Healthcare said this is because any unwanted findings could require them to change their lifestyles – “what they eat, how they exercise, what they can or cannot do”.
In some instances, patients may “overanticipate” a doctor’s advice, which amplifies their anxieties about undergoing testing. Such concerns, Teoh noted, also exist in her colleagues’ patients.
Ultimately, the fear of knowing could mean that the number of diabetics in the country is higher than reported.
Teoh cited the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey, which reported that some 3.9 million Malaysians were diabetic. Of this number, about 50% could be unaware that they are diabetic, she said.
Denial is another reason behind some people’s reluctance to get tested, largely owing to the assumption that they are immune to such diseases. “They believe they won’t get it because they think they are living healthily.”
A further assumption is that diabetes is a midlife disease that only affects those aged 40 and above. However, Teoh said, younger people these days are being diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, including children.
According to Diabetes Malaysia, type-2 accounts for 95% of the cases in the country. Indeed, Channel News Asia reported last month that an increasing number of young people are being diagnosed with diabetes – a statistic Teoh, who has diagnosed patients as young as 17, can attest to.
“It’s the kind of thing that we really saw little of years ago, but now it is more common to see people in their 20s with diabetes,” she observed.
It is also a matter of awareness, Teoh added, explaining that those who are educated on diabetes – or who know others who have it – are “very aware and afraid” of it.
Getting tested is vital as early detection could prevent related complications. For example, diabetes has been identified as the primary cause of kidney failure in the country, according to the National Kidney Foundation.
This is why Teoh and her colleagues have developed a free online “calculator”, launched last month, to help the public determine if they are at risk by answering seven questions.
While being moderate- or even high-risk doesn’t necessarily mean one has diabetes, Teoh pointed out that the goal here is to encourage people to get themselves checked out.
“When it comes to type-2 diabetes, you could reverse it within the first three years. It is crucial, therefore, to get yourself screened and diagnosed early,” she concluded.
Check out Sunway Healthcare’s Diabetes Risk Calculator by clicking here.