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Oct 14, 2010

Healthy Living brings diabetic retinopathy into focus

Diabetic retinopathy is on the increase; it is a condition that affects your eyesight and is one of the complications of diabetes. Most people do not know they are afflicted by it until they have lost their twenty-twenty.  This week Healthy Living opens your eyes to this national health problem.

Marleni Cuellar reporting

Diabetes affects the body in many ways; when uncontrolled, it can damage many parts of the body, such as the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and eyes. The rising sugar levels in blood causes fluctuations in vision and can even cause permanent damage. One the most common complications is diabetic retinopathy. This is diagnosed through an eye exam.

Sr. Alice Lewis

Sister Alice Lewis, Clinical Nurse Specialist in Eyes, BCVI

“We have patients who come because they are not seeing well and through examination the doctor sees that there is problem in the retina and then they’ll advise to do a blood test for diabetes and there they would know that they have diabetes but the damages have taken place in the eye already.”

Sr. Lewis is the Nurse in charge of the National Eye Clinic for BCVI. She explains the frequency with which people come to the clinic with eye problems due to diabetes and the usual symptoms they exhibit.

Sr. Alice Lewis

“In one clinic we’ll see like twenty patients and ten patients will be diabetic and five will have some extent of diabetic retinopathy. Because most of the times patients who do not control their diabetes. Every time the blood sugar is elevated it is damaging the eyes, the kidneys and the neuropathy. It gives them poor vision. Some people will have dark spots in the middle of their vision. They’ll see to the sides but in the middle of the vision they’ll have dark spots around it just looking at somebody from far or even close.”

It is a problem that the Belize Diabetes Association is well aware of and has also prompted their partnership with the Belize Council for Vision. Jointly they hope to increase diabetes awareness through eye clinics and reduce the incidences of visual impairment.

Anthony Castillo

Anthony Castillo, President of the Belize & Caribbean Diabetes Associations

Basically because you have high levels of blood sugar and the high levels of blood sugar affects the finer blood vessels in the eye and hence it gives you the eye problem. Unfortunately in many cases when people find out they have diabetes it’s because they’re already complications coming in. persons will; go to the doctor because they’re not seeing well or they have some complication or the other or at the eye doctor is when they find out they have diabetes which was the one that cause the problem to the eyes.”

Only an eye exam by an ophthalmologist will determine the extent of damage the high sugar levels has caused. The damage though cannot be reversed but can be slowed down with laser treatment.

Sr. Alice Lewis

“They’ll see bleeding and new vessels growing behind the eyes. And they have white spots they call it exudates that give them the idea that there is problem behind the eye in a diabetic.  When they are diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy. They are advised to have a laser done. The vessels that are growing or bleeding the laser is a bright light that is set in front of the eyes and it burns these areas. So it controls the bleeding over a portion of time. And it can be repeated again depending on what effect happens after the laser has been done.”

In addition to the regular awareness about eye care and healthy lifestyle choices for diabetes, the BCVI and BDA are hoping to increase the knowledge or patients on how to prevent any unnecessary damage. Their first of several countrywide events is the “All Eyes on Diabetes” Clinic which includes educational sessions as well as eye examinations, blood-sugar and pressure tests.

Anthony Castillo

So for us we continue to preach along with awareness, a healthy lifestyle. Control your blood sugar level. If you continue to have high level of blood sugar you would have problems with your eyes among other complications.”

Sr. Alice Lewis

“It starts from the diabetes itself they have to control the diet visit t heir GP, their general practitioner regularly and then do an eye test yearly.”

Anthony Castillo

The complications of diabetes are many but if you are informed and educated you’ll be able to live with the condition.”


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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