Diabetes is definitely not new in the society and has been on the rise over the last decade especially due to urbanisation and modern sedentary lifestyle. Diabetes is so much more than just a high level of sugar in blood. It can cause damage to many other organs of the body and deteriorate quality of life. Though diabetes is not a curable disease, it can be well controlled with a healthy lifestyle and disciplined medications.
Since people with diabetes are susceptible to many kinds of diseases, it is important for them to know diseases that can be prevented early on or helps slow down the ongoing progress of the diseases. One of the most common diseases is diabetic retinopathy (DR). Diabetic retinopathy is an eye complication usually characterised by changes of retina’s (the layer at the very back of the eyeball responsible for eyesight) blood vessels which then causes formation of new additional fragile blood vessels that easily cause bleeding in the eye. This in return alters the eyesight or even sudden blindness.
Diabetic eye screening is recommended for people with diabetes to help detect any eye problems before it causes changes in the vision. This screening is somewhat important as more than 40 % of people suffering diabetes worldwide have already developed DR. In Malaysia, 9 % of them ended up with eye blindness. This initial eye screening should be done immediately when a person is diagnosed with diabetes.
What should you expect from a diabetic eye screening? Firstly, before even going for the eye screening, you should plan ahead on how to get there and return home as your eyesight might be blurry for a few hours after the screening. This is because sometimes the person checking your eyes might use eye drops that cause temporary blurry vision. You may want someone to keep you company or take cabs since driving by yourself can be quite risky. Bring along sunglasses if you can to help you from intense light glare after the test.
During the test, you will be asked to read some numbers or letters on a chart to check your actual visual acuity. The eye examiner will then use medicated eye drops that help the eye look clearer for the examiner to observe but probably cause some discomfort for you such as stinging and blurry sight. The eye examiner will use a device called a fundus camera to observe the changes of the retina. You will be instructed to look into the camera and pictures of the retina will be taken. The eye examiner will then brief you on what can be observed from the picture.
Individuals with diabetes should go for eye screening once every two years. If the person is considered high risk due to poor control of blood sugar, uncontrolled blood pressure or high fat components in blood (serum lipid) such as cholesterol or triglycerides, it is advisable for the person to go for diabetic eye screening at least once a year. If the eye examiner sees signs of retinopathy, you might be asked to come once in 6 months.
Indeed, diabetic eye screening helps patients to keep track of the health of their eyes. By reducing risks of getting DR, patients are able to reduce risks for other diabetes complications such as kidney failure, nerve damages in limbs, heart diseases, stroke and amputation of foot due to diabetic foot. Practising a healthy diet, getting physically active, smoking cessations, controlling blood sugar and cholesterol levels are among ways for patients to keep themselves healthy and free from the aftermath of diabetes.