Primary care clinicians should ask Muslims with diabetes about fasting during Ramadan to help them make informed decisions about the effects on their health, researchers say.
Many British Muslims avoid visiting their GP surgery during the holy month because they do not want to be asked about fasting, research by the universities of Manchester and Keele found.
Source: Diabetes UK
The study, published in the journal Health Expectations, explored the beliefs that affect a Muslim’s approach to managing diabetes and found that many considered fasting during Ramadan a religious duty that should be fulfilled despite their condition.
But many Muslims would welcome advice and support from their GP or practice nurse about how to fast safely, as long as they were trained and understood the importance of Ramadan to the patient, lead author Dr Neesha Patel said.
Some Muslims avoided telling their GP they were fasting, while others who did see their doctor and were advised not to fast for health reasons went on to fast anyway, the study found.
Fasting causes short-term risks such as dehydration and poor diabetes control, while in the longer term it can cause poorer quality of life and increased risk of mortality, the study said.
Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham, a Manchester GP and professor of general practice research at Keele University who worked with Dr Patel on the study, said: “GPs and practice nurses need to ask patients if they intend to fast, and if they need information about how to fast safely.
“Healthcare professionals may also benefit from training and skills into providing culturally sensitive care, and patients also need to feel that they can discuss fasting openly in the primary care consultation.”
Dr Patel, from the University of Manchester, added: “Although the Islamic law states that the ‘sick’ can be exempt from fasting for one or all 30 days, the majority of Muslim respondents with diabetes do not perceive themselves as ‘sick’ and therefore choose to fast.
“We found many British Muslims we interviewed did not bring the topic up with their GP or practice nurse or avoided their surgery altogether that month for fear of being told not to fast.
“The reluctance to disclose fasting to GPs or practice nurses has potentially serious consequences for diabetes control and future health.”
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