KUALA LUMPUR – Diabetic Retinopathy, is a complication affecting the eyesight of diabetics. Previously the condition mostly affected those above 50 but over the last decade increasing number of people in the 30-35 age group have been diagnosed with the problem.
Medical Retinal Specialist and Ophthalmologist Dr Hazlita Mohd Isa is concerned on the lack of awareness in the Malaysian society over the condition.
“Awareness is very poor in Malaysia. Even many of those suffering from diabetes are not even aware on the possibility of developing the eye condition, too often they come to the doctors with severe eye conditions.
“Unfortunately, these days those being diagnosed with Diabetic Retinopathy mostly younger people. And many are facing the possibility of becoming blind if there is no proper care,” she said in an exclusive interview with Bernama here recently,
Patients with diabetic retinopathy may still have good vision if their macula or optic nerve is not affected, even in cases of severe proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR),” said the doctor who is attached to a specialist centre.
INSIDIOUS NATURE OF DIABETIC RETINOPATHY
“Thus patients can have Diabetic Retinopathy and they do not even know about it. Therefore, routine ophthalmology examination is key for detection of this disease,” explained Dr Hazlita who specialises in Diabetic Retinopathy.
Diabetic Retinopathy happens when chronic high blood sugar levels causes damage to the blood vessels and cells in the eye retina that compromises oxygen and nutrient supply to the tissues of the eye. This damages the eye.
“Diabetic Retinopathy is an ocular complication of diabetes mellitus. The retina is a layer of nerve that lines the eye and receives stimuli for us to see. This is the main part of the eye that is affected by diabetes mellitus,” she said.
“The main cause of poor vision in Diabetic Retinopathy is diabetic macula edema (DME) where there is blood vessel fluid leakage and tissue swelling (edema) at the macula,” she further explained on the condition.
“The macula is a part of the retina responsible for central and acute vision, and for the perception of color. DME can occur in any stage of Diabetic Retinopathy,” Dr Hazlita added.
GREATER AWARENESS NEEDED
To enhance awareness, the doctor called on for more public talks especially for those with diabetes on the seriousness of the condition.
She urged diabetics to have their eyes checked regularly, at least once a year.
“We have the expertise, you just have to come and see us,” she said.
Asked on how to avoid developing Diabetic Retinopathy, Dr Hazlita suggested patients, especially those with Type 2 Diabetes to get their eyes checked as soon as they have been diagnosed with diabetes and subsequently get their eyes checked regularly.
She noted that most government hospitals and health clinics nationwide have good screening programmes to detect and monitor someone with Diabetic Retinopathy.
It is also important for people to know that pregnancy can cause development of Diabetic Retinopathy and the disease can progress quickly in pregnant mothers.
“Therefore, diabetic women thinking of getting pregnant and those who develop diabetes during pregnancy should have their eyes closely monitored for this disease by their ophthalmologist throughout their pregnancy,” she said.
On the treatment available, she said at present there were two types of treatment; for PDR, it is through laser treatment; and for DME, is through direct injection of an anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) medicine or an anti-inflammatory medicine. Some severe form of Diabetic Retinopathy will require ocular surgery.
Diabetic Retinopathy cannot be taken lightly as an estimated 3.6 million Malaysians are suffering from diabetes. – BERNAMA