Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes, and remains the leading cause of avoidable blindness in working-aged people.
Africans and people with African ancestry seem to be among the most affected, with diabetic retinopathy being identified in close to half of this group of people with diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy is also associated with increased risk of life-threatening systemic vascular complications, including stroke, coronary heart disease, and heart failure. Good control, particularly of blood glucose and blood pressure is the foundation for reduction of risk of retinopathy development and progression.
According to a survey conducted by the Cameroon Burden of Diabetes Project (CAMBoD I) in 2003, 6% of Cameroonian adults (aged 15 – 65 years) was diabetic, a six fold rise from 1% in 1994 (less than 10 years). According to the same survey, 25% were hypertensive, while obesity was almost reaching epidemic proportions with 21% of adult females and 15% of adult males respectively being obese.
Another remarkable finding of this survey was that 77% of hypertensives and 80% of diabetics were NOT aware of their condition, and the management of these conditions by health care providers was found to be inadequate.
The good news, though, is that type 2 diabetes is preventable through lifestyle changes such as healthy diets, increasing physical activity, reducing weight in case of overweight or obesity etc. And even for those diagnosed with diabetes, it is possible to significantly reduce the risk of loss of vision from diabetes.
If you have type 2 diabetes, it is recommended to have yearly comprehensive eye exams, including a dilated fundus exam to screen for diabetic retinopathy.
For type 1 diabetes, a yearly comprehensive exam should be started 5 years after initial diagnosis of diabetes.
This is a very important step, second only to good control of blood sugar and other risk factors, to avoid vision loss from diabetes.