Among the many complications associated with diabetes is a group of eye problems, collectively known as diabetic eye disease. The most common of these eye complications is called diabetic retinopathy, a condition in which the elevated glucose levels in the blood of people with diabetes causes blood vessels in the retina to swell and leak. New blood vessels may also grow, thereby causing further damage and vision loss.
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of vision loss in Canadians under 50. An estimated 500,000 people in Canada have some form of diabetic retinopathy, from which 6,000 have lost their sight from the condition.
A recent study conducted by CNIB and the Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS) estimated the annual cost of diabetic retinopathy to the Canadian economy was at $521 million in 2007. This breaks down to $258 million in direct health costs and $264 million in indirect costs, largely associated with unemployment due to vision loss.
The number of Canadians with diabetic retinopathy is projected to increase 61 per cent by the year 2031. Clearly, the diabetes epidemic will have a major impact not only on vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy but it will also affect the economy.
Without treatment diabetic retinopathy can advance to uncorrectable vision loss or even blindness. Nearly all patients with Type I diabetes and 60 per cent of those with Type II diabetes develop some form of retinopathy during the first 20 years they have the disease.
In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, there are often no symptoms and vision is not affected, nor is there any associated pain. But early detection and treatment can prevent the progression of the disease.
A recent national survey showed that 50 per cent of Canadians who don’t wear eyeglasses had not had their eyes examined in the past five years, if ever. This has to change if diabetic retinopathy is to be controlled.
Prevention of vision loss from diabetic retinopathy requires a two fold approach: control of diabetes by controlling blood sugar, coupled with regular eye examinations. This will allow early detection and treatment of diabetic retinopathy.
November 14th is world diabetes day. On this day of awareness, CNIB is asking people with diabetes to remember that they need to take care of their eyes like they do their blood sugar and to have a complete eye examination by an eye doctor.
CNIB is also about to commence a free interactive webinar series exclusively for health care professionals. The first webinar of the series will focus on diabetic retinopathy, its symptoms, risk factors and treatments.
Subsequent webinars will be aimed at assisting health care professionals learn more about caring for patients with vision loss the resources available to patients for diabetes self-management.
The free webinars in the entire series include:
• Webinar #1: October 25 @ 1 p.m. EST: Diabetic Retinopathy Basics, Dr. Netan Choudhry, Herzig Eye Institute
• Webinar #2: November 13 @ 1 p.m. EST: Diabetes Management with Vision Loss, Lynn Baughan & Kathryn MacDonald, Central West Diabetes Regional Coordination Centre
• Webinar #3: November 15 @ 1 p.m. EST: Supporting Patients with Vision Loss – Practical Tips & Strategies, Leanne Cornell & Sumreen Siddiqui, CNIB
• Webinar #4: November 21 @ 1 p.m. EST: Adjusting to Vision Loss, John Pimental, diabetes educator, and Sharon Kanhai, CNIB
For more details on specific topics covered in each webinar, and information on how to register online, visit cnib.ca/infocuswebinarseries
Please feel free to extend this invitation to whomever you think would be interested.
If you have any questions relating to the webinars and/or registration, please contact Lisa McStay, Project Coordinator, CNIB, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (416) 486-2500 ext. 8355.