An average healthy lifestyle and timely medical intervention can be highly effective in dealing with diabetic eye disease, according to doctors at Canadian Specialist Hospital (CSH), one of the leading private sector hospitals in the UAE.
‘Diabetic retinopathy’, also known as diabetic eye disease, is when damage occurs to the retina due to diabetes.
“It is a lesser known fact that diabetes can lead to sight threatening complications. Diabetes affects the retina, the nerve layer lining the inner most part of the back of the eye (diabetic retinopathy) and can lead to sight impairment in two ways. It may lead to leakage of fluid into the central part of the retina leading to a gradual loss of central vision. Sudden loss of vision may be due to bleeding into the cavity of the eyeball due to rupture of small new blood vessels that grow into the retina as a result of diabetes,” said Dr.Raeba Mathew, Specialist Ophthalmologist at Canadian Specialist Hospital.
The most important risk factor for diabetic retinopathy is the duration of diabetes. In patients diagnosed with diabetes before the age of 30, the incidence of retinopathy after 10 years is 50% and after 30 years, 90%. It has been estimated that nearly 35% of newly diagnosed diabetics may have retinopathy and 38% of type 2 diabetics and 45% of type 1 diabetics will develop it over six years. Other risk factors are poor control of diabetes, poorly controlled blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, smoking, obesity and anaemia.
Figures from the International Diabetes Federation have indicated that UAE is ranked 16th worldwide, with 19% of the UAE population living with diabetes. Sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits combined with rising obesity, contribute to the disease. UAE had 745,900 diabetics in 2013, in addition to 303,600 undiagnosed cases and 934,300 cases of impaired glucose tolerance, which implies a high probability of diabetes.
The hospital had hosted the ‘Diabetic Retinopathy Screening’ this month, inviting the public to undergo a free screening for diabetic eye diseases. This event was received with great enthusiasm as people frequented the booth to gain more information apart from getting their eyes checked.
“However, these sight threatening complications can be delayed by good control of the risk factors. Retinopathy may not cause any visual problems till late in the course of the disease. Once the patient has been detected to have any of the sight threatening complications, diagnostic tests are performed which includes digital fluorescein angiography and retinal scan, to get the optimum results,” added Dr.Raeba.
“A mandatory eye checkup for retinopathy is needed when diagnosed with diabetes and thereafter annually or more frequently, based on the stage of retinopathy. Early detection and timely treatment help in preventing visual loss due to diabetes. As diabetes is an ongoing disease, regular eye screening is important for early identification of any treatable eye complications. Treatment instituted after development of advanced diabetic eye disease, when visual symptoms occur, may not help much in restoring vision to functional levels,” concluded Dr.Raeba.
The hospital in the past had hosted several diabetes awareness programs inviting the public to undergo free screening for body mass index (BMI), blood pressure (BP) and blood sugar levels, all key indicators of diabetic conditions.