The current number of people living with diabetes in Canada is approximately 3.3 million and sadly the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is increasing dramatically with current estimates confidently predicting a doubling of cases by 2025.
In addition to a host of systemic diseases diabetes is linked to, such as cardiovascular disease, lower limb amputations, kidney failure, it also gives rise to a host of ocular complications from fluctuations in refractive error, dry eyes, cataracts, neuro-ophthalmic problems, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. The statistics below show why it is important for diabetics to be vigilant about having yearly eye examinations.
- As many as 20% of patients newly diagnosed with type II diabetes show some evidence of diabetes-related eye diseases at the time of diagnosis (approximately 5% will need immediate treatment to prevent permanent vision loss)
- Within 7 years of diagnosis, 50% of Type II diabetics will have developed diabetes-related changes to their eyes and in Type I diabetics, essentially 100% will exhibit some diabetes-related eye diseases 15-20 years after diagnosis
- It is the most common cause of new cases of legal blindness in people of working age (12% of new cases of blindness are caused by diabetic retinopathy)
- People with diabetic retinopathy are about 25 times more likely than the general population to become blind within 4 years
Diabetic retinopathy is one of the more serious complications, partly because of the seriousness of its nature but also because it is not always readily ‘seen’ by the patients. It occurs when there is a weakening or swelling of the tiny blood vessels that feed the retina of the eye, resulting in blood leakage. However, it is important to realize that vision loss from diabetic retinopathy in many instances is preventable with timely and regular optometric assessment and early intervention (if and when needed by ophthalmologists). Under the Ontario Diabetes Strategy, the Ontario Association of Optometrist has partnered with the Ministry of Health to ensure diabetic patients receive an annual eye health assessment (it is an OHIP insured service). If you or anyone you know is a diabetic, make an appointment with an optometrist; call Dr. Mei-Ling Chan Optometry in Barrie.
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