November is Diabetic Eye Disease Month, a time that we stop to evaluate how diabetes is affecting the vision of men, women and children worldwide. Diabetes is not just a disease that affects blood sugar. Diabetics are prone to cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage visual impairment, and even blindness.
Diabetic retinopathy is a condition resulting from sustained high blood sugar from diabetes. As the worldwide rate of diabetes increases, diabetic retinopathy incidence is proportionally increasing as well. Diabetic retinopathy is a condition in which the delicate blood vessels of the retina become damaged and start leaking and distorting vision. In advanced stages, abnormal blood vessels begin to grow and cause retinal scarring, vision impairment or blindness.
A recent study was published in Diabetes Care by a global consortium led by researchers at Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) College of Optometry in Fort Lauderdale/Davie, Florida, and the Vision and Eye Care Unit at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, United Kingdom.
The study examined regions of the world over the past 20 years with the highest number of people who were visually impaired by diabetic retinopathy: South Asia, Middle East & North Africa, and West Sub-Saharan Africa. Blindness and visual impairment because of diabetic retinopathy increased significantly. In 2010, one in every 39 blind people was blind due to diabetic retinopathy, which increased 27 percent since 1990. Of those with moderate or severe vision impairment, one in 52 people had diabetic-related vision loss, a stunning increase of 64 percent since 1990.
The authors of the study recommend public policy planning in the regions of the world that are the most affected. Some ideas include:
- Improving control of glucose levels and blood pressure among diabetics
- Increasing education about diabetic retinopathy and related vision loss
- Developing cost-effective strategies for screening
- Prevention and treatment of diabetic retinopathy through laser treatments, steroid injections and other drugs
“Unfortunately diabetic retinopathy usually does not have any symptoms in the early stages,” says Janet Leasher, O.D., M.P.H., co-author of the report and a professor at NSU’s College of Optometry. “People diagnosed with diabetes should have a dilated eye health exam at least every year and be advised by their eye care practitioner for their personal situation. Patients should work closely with their health care provider to determine the best methods to control their blood sugar levels” (Source: Medical Express).