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Feb 12, 2015

Healthy Living: Diabetes and Vision

Globally, it is estimated that half the people living with type two diabetes don’t know it.  Even though type-two diabetes may remain undetected for years, it still poses a great threat to your health until it is diagnosed and managed. Eye tests have consistently been one of the ways people learn their diagnosis. The problem is that the damage caused by diabetic retinopathy – which is a result of uncontrolled diabetes – cannot be repaired. So some people literally don’t know until they can’t see. Tonight in Healthy Living I’ll introduce to a program initiated by BCVI that is aiming to save the sight of person’s living with diabetes.

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

In July 2014, the Lions Club handed over some very important “sight-saving” equipment to the BCVI for their diabetic screening and treatment program. After years of seeing clients with irreparable damage due to undiagnosed & uncontrolled diabetes, the program was initiated to minimize the loss of vision in persons living with the condition.

 

Baxter McLendon

Dr. Baxter McLendon, Ophthalmologist

“You can have changes in the back of the eye and not be aware of it; you can be asymptomatic and yet still have problems in the back of the eye which can lead to blindness.”

 

Ophthalmologist, Doctor Baxter McLendon works with the BCVI and has been coming to Belize several times a year for the past 7 years. He has seen firsthand the damage that diabetes is causing in the health of Belizeans.

Dr. Baxter McLendon

“Diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world and certainly also in Belize. The problem with diabetes if you do not keep it under control, your glucose in a normal range then in time you can also have problems not only in the eye but you can have problems with your kidneys, or poor circulation in your lower limbs and with time it can cause loss of vision. The high sugar level the high glucose level causes damage to small blood vessel in the back of the eye and because they are damaged they start bleeding they start oozing lipid material and also because you don’t get enough oxygen you start getting abnormal new blood vessel growing the back of the eye. The problem with that is that abnormal vessels is that they are fragile and they can bleed and when you start getting hemorrhaging then your visual acuity starts decreasing.”

 

Studies show that the longer you are living with diabetes, the more likely you are to develop diabetic retinopathy; and, if you don’t properly manage your glucose levels then you are even more at risk.

 

Dr. Baxter McLendon

“People come in and say oh I’ve only had diabetes a three years and then I dilate them and look in the back and they already have changes in the back of the eye or hemorrhaging. They probably they’ve had diabetes for ten-twelve years it’s only been diagnosed for the last three years. People don’t get diabetic retinopathy or kidney problems in the first year of diabetes.  The problem with diabetes is that it s a chronic disease and what happens over the long haul is important. People think: “Oh I have a blood sugar of over two hundred but I feel great and I have a lot to do. I’m not gonna be bothered.” that is a bad attitude. That kind of attitude over months and years can lead to kidney failure. The leading cause of kidney failure in Belize and the US is diabetes, the leading cause of people having their foot cut off in Belize and the US is diabetes. One of the leading causes of blindness in Belize, the US and the rest of the world is due to diabetes. There are so many people who don’t understand how important it is to keep their diabetes under control. Every day, every eye doctor all over Belize talk to their patients and talk to them and talk to them about how important it is to keep their diabetes under control. Some people understand that and try to keep it and a lot of people just don’t want to be bothered with that.”

 

The primary aim is to have persons living with diabetes to get yearly screening of their eyes to prevent irreparable damage caused by diabetes and if damage already exists then to treat in order to prevent further damage and save the sight of patients.

 

Dr. Baxter McLendon

“Catching people when they have early changes is when you want to catch them, not when they have had a hemorrhage in the back of their eye and has lost a lot of vision because those people then it becomes quite difficult to treat the people and restore their vision.  We want diabetics especially people who think they are OK to come in let us look let us take some photos let us screen you and let us know that everything is OK in the back of the eye and that is what this national program is about.”

 

The diabetic retinopathy screening costs twenty dollars and is available on weekdays at your nearest BCVI eye clinic.

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