TORONTO, Jan. 17, 2012 /CNW/ - CNIB is stressing the importance of
regular eye examinations as part of a diabetic's treatment protocol.
This recommendation comes as a result of the 2011 Diabetes in Canada1 report recently released by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)
which details the importance of eye disease, in particular diabetic
retinopathy, as a key complication of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
The report not only showed that the prevalence of diabetes had increased
70% over a 11-year period from 1998/99 to 2008/99, it also stated that
in the first 20 years after a diagnosis of diabetes almost all
individuals with type 1 diabetes and more than 60 percent with type 2
diabetes develop some form of retinopathy. And, according to results
from a 2007 Canadian Community Health Survey only 66 percent of
individuals with diabetes obtain regular eye exams.
CNIB's Vice President of Research, Dr Keith Gordon, a member of the Diabetes in Canada editorial board, stresses the importance of regular eye examinations
for diabetics: "Because people with diabetes are at a greater risk for
vision loss, it is vitally important that all diabetics visit an eye
care professional for regular diagnostic examinations to help detect
any early signs of diabetic retinopathy and to monitor any further
developments of the disease," says Dr. Gordon.
"There are typically few warning signs of diabetic retinopathy in the
early stages and very often, by the time symptoms are noticed by an
individual with diabetes, the disease has progressed to a more advanced
stage, making successful treatment less likely and the risk of
blindness greater," adds Dr. Gordon.
According to the PHAC report, in 2008/09 there were almost 2.4 million
Canadians or 6.8 percent of the population living with diabetes. It is
estimated that close to 500,000 Canadians have been diagnosed with
diabetic retinopathy and that approximately 100,000 of these
individuals have a vision threatening form of the disease. A CNIB
study, conducted in conjunction with the Canadian Ophthalmological
Society two years ago2, put the total cost of diabetic retinopathy to the Canadian economy at
half a billion dollars.
In diabetic retinopathy, elevated glucose levels in the blood can cause
blood vessels in the eye to swell and leak in the retina. New blood
vessels may also grow causing further damage. Severe diabetic
retinopathy can result in total vision loss. While diabetic
retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness amongst diabetics, the risk
of developing cataracts or glaucoma is also increased in people with
"Diabetes affects the organs of the body including the eyes," says Dr.
Gordon. "Controlling blood sugars and changing other lifestyle factors
can help reduce the risk of developing vision loss due to retinopathy."
Diabetes, a chronic disease that occurs when the body is either unable
to sufficiently produce or properly use insulin, can strike at any
age. Cathy MacDonald of Sackville, NS was diagnosed with diabetes at
the age of 4. Despite daily insulin treatment, she began to develop
tiny blood vessels in the back of her eyes. Laser treatments to
control their growth failed, leading to the development of severe
After two operations to correct the condition failed, Ms. MacDonald was
blind at the age of 27. "If there is a message that I would like to
impart, it's that diabetes is very serious and complications do
happen," says Ms. MacDonald, who learned firsthand about the long-term
effect diabetes can have on internal organs such as the eyes.
Ms. MacDonald relied on services and programs at CNIB to help her regain
a sense of independence in her daily activities. She went on to enrol
in a local community college, earning a diploma in Human Services. She
later married and had a child.
"You can do anything if you put your mind to it," adds Ms. MacDonald.
CNIB is a registered charity, passionately providing community-based
support, knowledge and a national voice to ensure Canadians who are
blind or partially sighted have the confidence, skills and
opportunities to fully participate in life. To learn more, visit cnib.ca or call the toll-free CNIB Helpline at 1-800-563-2642.
1 2011 Diabetes In Canada - Facts and Figures From a Public Health
Perspective: Public Health Agency of Canada
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Sarah Snowdon, Specialist, Corporate Communications