WHAT SHOULD I KNOW
ABOUT DIABETIC RETINOPATHY?
WHAT IS DIABETIC RETINOPATHY?
Diabetic retinopathy is the effect of diabetes on the blood supply to the inner part of the eye where images are formed (retina) and where the eye sees sharpest (macula). These changes result into damage to these two areas. It is a progressive disease and seen only in diabetic patients. It is usually does have symptoms until it gets advanced and result eventually to blindness.
Diabetes is on the increase worldwide; Nigeria inclusive. In 2013, Nigeria had approximately 500,000 adults (20-70years) with diabetes and the number is on the increase everyday.
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in developed countries and 6th leading cause of visual impairment worldwide. About 13,000 Nigerian adults above the 40years are blind from diabetes (National Blindness survey 2003-2005). There is an increase in this now because of the increase in the number of diabetic patients.
Most patients in Nigeria present when complication has already started in the eyes. This is because they are not aware diabetes affects the eyes and/ or are not seeing an appropriate eye doctor on time.
WHO IS AT RISK?
Diabetic patients with:
- Long duration of diabetes: The longer the duration of diabetes, the more likely you may have diabetic retinopathy. However, at diagnose of diabetes, 50% of people with type 2-diabetes already have diabetic retinopathy.
- Poor glycaemic control: If your blood glucose control is poor, you are at more risk of developing diabetic retinopathy
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women with diabetes may have progression of diabetes retinopathy and must be closely monitored.
- Other chronic illness, High blood pressure (Hypertension) Excessive Cholesterol that are not well controlled.
- Renal disease
HOW WOULD I KNOW I HAVE DIABETIC RETINOPATHY?
Diabetic retinopathy can only be detected by having your eyes examined regularly. Diabetic retinopathy does not give symptoms in 80% of cases. When you notice blurring of vision or reduction in vision, it may be that you are already having complications in your eyes.
HOW IS DIABETIC RETINOPATHY DIAGNOSED?
The eye specialist will put drops in the eyes to enable adequate view of the back of the eye with specialised instruments. Also fundus photographs can be taken and graded using standard criteria.
Every diabetic patient needs to have screening for diabetic retinopathy yearly even if no eye problems of complaints are present.
CAN BLINDNESS FROM DIABETIC RETINOPATHY BE PREVENTED?
YES!!! When the diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed early and appropriately treated. The advice and follow up by the Ophthalmologist need to be adhered to
HOW IS DIABETIC RETINOPATHY TREATED?
Diabetic retinopathy is treated with lasers, injection of special drugs (Anti VEGF) into the eyes and surgery. The Ophthalmologist will decide the necessary treatment appropriate for you when necessary.
MORE importantly, good blood sugar control reduces the chance of the developing diabetic retinopathy and may stop progression in uncontrollable diabetes.
WHAT SHOULD I DO NOW?
If you are a patient with diabetes quickly see an Ophthlmologist to check your eyes especially the retina