Diabetes has been called the disease of the century. By the year 2013, it is believed diabetes will affect over one million Australians. World wide, the number of people with diabetes is expected to exceed 240 million.
Diabetes is a condition where the body can’t use glucose properly; and glucose is the major form of energy for the body’s cells. It is the hormone insulin which enables our body to take up glucose, but in diabetes we don’t produce enough insulin or our body doesn’t respond to it as well as it should.
There are two main types of diabetes - type 1 or insulin dependent diabetes, and type 2 or non-insulin dependent diabetes. Both can be managed with a normal healthy diet, exercise and, for some people, tablets and/or insulin.
In type 1 diabetes, the body actually stops making insulin, so regular insulin injections are required. In type 2 diabetes, insulin is still produced but doesn’t work properly. The cause of type 2 diabetes is not known, but in some people it appears to be related to being overweight and physically inactive. Type 2 diabetes is sometimes called mature-onset diabetes because it usually affects older people.
While we all know at least a little about diabetes, the serious nature of the condition is often not fully understood. Diabetes that is not effectively managed can lead to high blood pressure, limb amputation, impotency in men, kidney disease, stroke, complications in pregnancy and premature death.
As well, eye disease caused by uncontrolled diabetes is the commonest cause of preventable blindness in people under the age of 60.
As part of the awareness program associated with World Diabetes Day (November 14), pharmacies around the world will be providing advice about diabetes and eye disease.
The most sight-threatening eye disease that occurs with diabetes is retinopathy; however, other eye conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma are also more likely to occur in people with diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy simply means disease of the retina. It occurs when diabetes damages the very fine blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye. Once damaged, the retina does not repair and vision cannot be restored; so early detection and treatment of both diabetes and retinopathy is essential.
Everyone with diabetes is at risk of DR - whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, whether you use insulin or have your diabetes controlled by diet alone. The longer you have diabetes, the greater the risk.
Fortunately you can do something to prevent loss of sight from diabetes - by achieving good control of your diabetes, your blood pressure and your blood cholesterol; and by having your eyes checked regularly. When early signs of eye disease are detected, laser treatment can then be used to prevent DR damaging your sight.