Europe, Global, Global Geopolitics, Headlines

HEALTH: Keep an Eye on Diabetes, Experts Advise

Sanjay Suri

LONDON, Nov 14 2002 (IPS) - Negligence of diabetes is leading to increased cases of blindness around the world, says a new study by the International Diabetes Federation.

“More than two and a half million have already lost eyesight due to diabetes,” Prof Pierre Lefebvre, president of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) told IPS at the launch of the report to mark World Diabetes Day Thursday.

Recent studies show that people with diabetes are ignoring risks of diabetic blindness, he said. “Early lesions in the eye can now be spotted and treated with laser,” he said. “The cost for screening is only 12 to 15 dollars which is reasonable.” But he acknowledged that there is a lack of trained personnel in many places to use laser technology in treatment.

There are an estimated 190 million people who suffer diabetes worldwide, he said. That number is likely to increase to 300 million in 20 years. The prevalence of diabetes is high in North America and in Europe but it seems to have peaked here, Prof Lefebvre said. “But in Africa and Asia the numbers are set to double over the next 20 years,” he said.

The IDF is launching new moves to make sure that insulin is “available and affordable” across Africa, Prof Lefebvre said. The IDF is also launching a new publicity campaign to alert people to the danger of damage to eyesight from diabetes.

The campaign being launched with the World Health Organisation under the theme ‘Your Eyes and Diabetes: Don’t Lose Sight of the Risks’ will seek to tell people that better understanding of the risks is needed to increase screenings for devastating conditions like diabetic retinopathy – the leading cause of vision loss among working-age adults in industrialised countries.

Results of the recent survey, conducted by IDF-Europe and the Lions Clubs International Foundation, show that “a large percentage of people with diabetes do not report being worried about the long-term diabetic microvascular complications associated with the condition, including diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to visual impairment and loss of vision.”

World Diabetes Day 2002 will be the launch pad for both doctors and people with diabetes to take action to reduce the burden of eye disease in people already suffering from diabetes. “By speaking more with their doctors about eye disease as a result of diabetes and seeking appropriate treatment, people with diabetes have a greater chance of not losing their sight,” Prof Lefebvre said.

The survey was conducted among 2,702 people in six countries: France (402), Germany (394), Italy (388), Spain (394), the United Kingdom (399) and the United States (725).

The survey shows that while 74 per cent of people with diabetes will develop a diabetic microvascular complication such as diabetic retinopathy, nearly 60 per cent of people with diabetes reported not being worried about going blind or losing a limb. Only 30 per cent of those surveyed said they had problems controlling their diabetes, yet up to 72 per cent of this group was unable to provide their last haemoglobin level, required to assess blood sugar levels.

In addition, while 70 per cent of people wanted more effective treatment for problems due to diabetes, more than 40 per cent felt that problems would occur no matter what they did. Prof Lefebvre said it was surprising that “people are not worried about the risks of going blind due to their diabetes.”

Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to small blood vessels of the retina in the eye that is caused by diabetic-induced microvascular complications. A second condition, Macular oedema is a swelling in the area near the centre of the retina, a common complication associated with diabetic retinopathy. Both of these conditions can occur in people who have had diabetes for an extended period of time.

“At least 50 million people are likely to have diabetic retinopathy and this number is projected to double by the year 2025 if no major control activity is developed,” says Dr Serge Resnikoff of the World Health Organisation.

“I fully support the IDF’s concerns about diabetic eye complications,” says Jan Bervoets, a Belgian singer who suffers from diabetic eye disease. “My condition puts a serious strain on my lifestyle and I have had to limit a number of my social activities as a result. People with diabetes should discuss their risks with their doctor, and ask for regular screenings.”

Bervoet’s experience is shared by many people with diabetic eye complications. People with vision loss may have to withdraw from recreational and social activities, and faced a strain on social and personal relationships, the report says. “Visual complications can cause problems within existing partnerships, with high levels of marital and relationship breakdown,” the report says. “On top of this, 12 per cent of people with diabetic retinopathy are forced to give up driving.”

IDF is a global advocate for people with diabetes and their healthcare providers. It is an international non-governmental organisation in official relations with the World Health Organisation (WHO). It has 182 member associations in 142 countries.

Republish | | Print |

Related Tags

Development & Aid, Europe, Global, Global Geopolitics, Headlines, Health

HEALTH: Keep an Eye on Diabetes, Experts Advise

Sanjay Suri

LONDON, Nov 13 2002 (IPS) - Negligence of diabetes is leading to increased cases of blindness around the world, says a new study by the International Diabetes Federation.

Republish | | Print |

Related Tags