By Caribbean Medical News Staff

According to a recent study in by the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the United States, early detection of illnesses of the eye can curb blindness in diabetics. According to the institute, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness (in diabetics) and regular eye screening tests can reduce this risk. The population of the Caribbean with diabetes is ever increasing even in younger populations and this is of concern to many physicians, ophthalmologists and many health advocates  who are fighting the epidemic of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) of which diabetes is very prevalent.

A survey done by Diabetic Connect, the largest social networking site for diabetics says that 25% of people with diabetes do not have the recommended annual dilated (retina) eye exam that would markedly reduce blindness associated with diabetes.

The major eye diseases associated with diabetes include diabetic retinopathy, cataract and glaucoma. Changes in the blood vessels in the retina cause diabetic retinopathy, with some patients also experiencing swelling and leakage of the macula. The macula is the part of the retina responsible for sharp vision.  This is known as diabetic macular edema (DME). Some patients with diabetic retinopathy may also develop a new set of blood vessels on the surface of the retina. Partial or total blindness can result from this as well according to the NEI.

As with any preventative action, early detection of diabetic retinopathy and other eye diseases can offer treatment solutions before it is too late.

“Most of the time diabetic eye disease do not show any symptoms until vision is either permanently or partially damaged”, said one ophthalmologist.

Some treatments include laser eye surgery and injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) medications.

Within the Caribbean, health care costs are sky-rocketing with chronic Non-Communicable Diseases playing a major role.  Many of the complications associated with NCDs often include heart disease, diabetes and stroke. With health care costs rising this is a major concern to Caribbean healthcare institutions struggling with spiralling costs in pharmaceutical care as well as primary and secondary care to the patient.

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