World Diabetes Day, November 14, 2022
Australians living with diabetes are being urged to monitor regularly for a devastating complication of the condition which can lead to catastrophic vision failure and sudden blindness without any previous symptoms.
Advanced retinopathy, a condition where blood vessels in the eye become damaged, remains underdiagnosed and at the bottom of the health check list for many diabetes patients.
According to Dr Chris Qureshi, Eye Surgeon, Sydney, untreated retinopathy can lead to the formation of new, abnormal blood vessels, which if not detected early can causing bleeding into the eye and detachment of the eye’s retina which is crucial for vision processing.
“We’re urging patients living with diabetes to seek regular eye checks this World Diabetes Day.
“While many patients are excellent at monitoring and maintaining control of more common diabetes associated health conditions, we’re increasingly finding eye health remains poorly controlled, usually as a result of patients putting their eye health at the bottom of their list of priorities, and missing or skipping regular eye health appointments.” Dr Qureshi said.
“This can lead to at best, temporary blindness and at worst, irreversible blindness, that may have been prevented with regular follow up.”
An estimated one in 20 Australians are living with diabetes, 1 of whom a growing number are at risk of diabetes-related blindness. The reported incidence of diabetes has also been increasing each year with an estimated 3 million Australians living with Type-2 diabetes by 2025. 2
Dr Georgina Clark, Eye Surgeon, Bondi Eye Doctors, Sydney, and an international clinical trials researcher said more and more younger people with diabetes are being impacted by advanced retinopathy, which due to hormonal factors can progress rapidly during late teens, a time when young people are distracted by many other social, sporting and education activities.
“Many young people with diabetes are unfortunately unaware that advanced retinopathy can occur at an early age and that it is strongly linked to the quality of diabetes control during adolescence.
“It’s hugely important that adolescents are encouraged to optimise control of their diabetes and speak to their health care workers,” said Dr Clark.
“We can reverse the trend or preventable vision loss in young people, but the critical step is that they present for periodic eye checks.”
Blindness from advanced retinopathy is preventable through optimal blood sugar level control. In more advanced cases laser and eye surgery are employed to deal with the diabetes-related eye complications.
“The longer advanced retinopathy is left untreated, the more dangerous it becomes,” Dr Qureshi said.
“Surgery is extremely effective, particularly if we treat haemorrhaging in the eye blood vessels early. Patients will maintain good central vision, and in most cases, their peripheral vision.
“The later we treat the bleeding the more likely there will be partial if not complete loss of peripheral vision, which has huge implications in daily activities especially those that can impact the broader community such as driving,” said Dr Qureshi.
Eye health checks for people living with diabetes are recommended every six to 12 months.
People living with diabetes should visit their GPs or optometrists who will assess their eye health and refer them for treatment or surgery where necessary.
1. Australian Bureau of Statistics: Diabetes. 2020-2021. Available athttps://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/health-conditions-and-risks/diabetes/latest-release. Accessed November 2022.
2. Diabetes Australia. Diabetes, the silent pandemic and its impact on Australia. 2012. Available athttps://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/wp-content/uploads/Diabetes-the-silent-pandemic-and-itsimpact-on-Australia.pdfAccessed November 2022.
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