Over 3% of the population is affected by Diabetes Mellitus but this is expected to increase considerably in future. The blame lies mainly to the modern trend to high fat/sugar, low fibre diet and a less active lifestyle than in previous generations.
Risk factors for diabetes include family history, older age, obesity, smoking, low level of physical activity, and alcohol use.
There are two main types of Diabetes, Type 1 (Insulin Dependent) usually occurring in children and young people, and Type 2 (Non-Insulin Dependent) which develops later in life at around 50 yrs., and controlled by improved diet, lifestyle and in some cases, medication.
There is no such condition as “mild diabetes”. All diagnosed diabetics are liable to the long term disabling complications of the disease so should be sure to attend screening clinics even if feeling well and not taking tablets for diabetes.
Diabetes is an increasingly important health problem and is a significant cause of preventable sight loss. Changes in retinal blood vessels due to high blood sugar levels cause them to leak blood and serum directly into the retina. This is termed Diabetic Retinopathy.
Sight threatening disease is often asymptomatic and treatment is generally more effective if done sooner. Better detection and treatment of diabetic retinopathy by routine and universal screening of all diabetic patients alongside improved medical management of blood sugars will greatly reduce the incidence of diabetic retinopathy and improve outcomes for many diabetic people.
Diabetics also have an increased incidence of cataract, ocular inflammation, glaucoma, and other vascular eye conditions so should continue to attend their Optometrist for a comprehensive eye examination.
It is now recognised that diabetic retinopathy and other long term complications of diabetes can be prevented by adherence to a regime which includes strict blood glucose control, low fat diet, regular exercise, and weight reduction to avoid obesity.