Vision Loss is more common in Blacks with Diabetic Retinopathy
Vision care should be our No.1 priority to lead a healthy, happy & satisfied life. While the onset of most eye ailments may not be under our control, timely intervention and treatment can help to curb the long term harmful effects of most eye diseases. This is true for Diabetic eye diseases too.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a difficult chronic disease that is marked by high blood sugar levels. A person suffering from Diabetes can experience weight gain (more in type II insulin-resistance diabetes) or weight loss (more common in type I insulin-dependent diabetes), kidney failure, weakening of the body, heart diseases, and even blindness.
What are Diabetic Eye Diseases?
Diabetic Eye Diseases refer to those specific eye problems that may develop in individuals suffering from diabetes and can cause severe vision loss or even blindness as a result of the changes & complications that take place within the body due to diabetes. People who have been suffering from Diabetes for a longer period of time are more likely to develop these diabetic eye diseases.
Blacks with Diabetes face tremendous Risk
Over the years; research has confirmed that people of African descent are more likely to develop serious diabetic eye diseases such as Diabetic Retinopathy as compared to their counterparts of other races. If these diabetic eye disorders are not treated on time, they can lead to loss of vision and complete blindness. It is alarming to note that in many parts of Africa including Ethopia, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and among many African-American communities, thousands of people are losing their eye sight due to sheer ignorance of the risks they face due to diabetes.
Since most diabetes-related eye ailments start showing symptoms only after the disease has reached its advanced stage, it is of primary importance, especially for blacks to get their eyes checked regularly (at least once a year) for these diseases. The process generally involves dilation of the pupils using eye drops to get a better view of the insides of the eye.
Common Diabetic Eye Diseases in Blacks include Diabetic Retinopathy, Glaucoma & Cataract.
Glaucoma & Cataract Individuals with diabetes are very likely to develop diseases such as Glaucoma and Cataract, characterized by optic nerve damage & eye lens clouding, respectively.
Diabetic Retinopathy is the most common among people of ages between 20 & 65 and is developed as a result of damage caused to the retinal blood vessels. Retinopathy generally takes 2 forms – Proliferative Retinopathy which is characterised by the growth of new blood vessels in the retina and macular edema in which the retinal fluid enters onto the macula. If not treated on time, Diabetic Retinopathy can severely threaten vision.
Early Detection & Treatment
Research conducted at New Jersey Medical School, New York University College of Medicine and Dentistry, and some African Universities show that by curbing the sodium and calorie intake of Blacks suffering from Diabetes, the risk of Diabetic Retinopathy can be prolonged. Medication and laser treatment are the other actions that can be taken, depending on the current stage of the disease.
There is an urgent need to sensitize diabetic blacks about the risks they face and the importance of early diagnosis in curbing the occurrence of vision threatening, diabetes related eye disorders.
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G. Stanley Okoye, M.D., Ph.D. , Chief Medical Correspondent, Africa Political and Economic Strategic Center (Afripol) and St. Jude Medical Missions (