As the world commemorated World Diabetes Day, statistics from Barbados are becoming more alarming, and more Barbadians are experiencing eye diseases that have come about as a result of this chronic non-communicable disease.
Speaking at a public lecture at Courts Optical’s Sunset Crest branch, optometrist Shari Edey stated, “Statistics are now showing that one in five Barbadians have diabetes, and if we see a group of ten patients, four or five of them have diabetes. However, not all the patients we see with eye diseases are diabetic.”
She stated that diabetes does cause several eye diseases, including “macular oedema, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts.”
Diabetic retinopathy, she explained, “begins when blood vessels in the back of the eye can start to bulge or bleed, and if it worsens, those blood vessels eventually close and new ones emerge, but these then leak into the gel-like structure inside the eye which leads to retinal detachment. The patient will experience blurred vision, the inability to see colours clearly and dark empty spaces in their line of sight.
“Macular oedema is caused by fluid on the front or back of the macula which causes swelling and leads to distorted vision. Cataracts occur in diabetics when fluid gets into the lens which leads to cloudy or blurred vision, lights appear dazzling or things appear yellow.”
If some of these conditions are not diagnosed or treated early, they can lead to blindness.
Beyond that, people who wear glasses may need to get new prescriptions because “if there are high levels of glucose in the blood surrounding the lens, the shape of the lens will change. However, if a change in eating habits results in a reduction of the glucose levels, the patient’s vision could very well improve.” She added that hypertension and smoking are other factors in eye disease.
Edey said, “The people we see with diabetes tend to be 50 years old and up, and we have had a case where a customer discovered they had diabetes after doing the eye examination. We would recommend that diabetics get an eye examination every year.”
She noted, however, that as an optometrist, she can only provide glasses and offer education. After carrying out the examination, if they notice anything serious, they can refer the customer to an ophthalmologist. (DH)