Diabetes in focus

Leading Ophthalmologist at Pretoria Eye Institute, Dr Jan Niemandt, shares his insights on diabetic eye care.

As we enter Diabetes Month in November, with World Diabetes Day commemorated globally on 14th November, we need to pause to consider how this seemingly innocuous disease affects an alarmingly high percentage of our population.

According to the latest statistics released by the International Diabetes Federation, of an adult population of 33 million people, a staggering 1.8 million adults were diagnosed with diabetes in South Africa. And these figures are expected to grow exponentially. Citing an array of reasons – from the sugar epidemic, stress and unhealthy lifestyles to a population afflicted with one the highest rates of obesity – there is certainly cause for concern.

Although troubling, the good news is that with proper diet, exercise and regular medical check-ups, diabetes and its attendant side effects can be managed. Proper eye care also needs to be factored in to the diabetic lifestyle given that diabetes is the primary cause of blindness in adults ages 20 to 74.

Some of the eye problems which diabetics may encounter, are:

  • Diabetic retinopathy: A condition that affects the blood vessels in the retina that line the back of the eye.
  • Diabetic macular oedema: Swelling of an area in the retina, called the macula, caused by the build-up of fluid.
  • Cataracts: The clouding of the normally transparent crystalline lens in the eye, causing blurry vision.
  • Glaucoma: The occurrence of abnormally high pressure in the eye because of too much liquid, which can cause damage to the optic nerve.

Says leading Pretoria Eye Institute ophthalmologist, Dr Jan Niemandt, “As the adage goes: prevention is better than cure. With regular optical care, the risks associated with the loss of eye-sight as a result of diabetes can be considerably reduced.”

Using state-of-the art equipment and employing world-class medical professionals, the Pretoria Eye Institute is able, through early detection, to ensure optimal visual health. With their specialised health unit, Pretoria Eye Institute successfully treat glaucoma, cataracts, retinopathy and refractive surgery, as well as eye exams and vision testing for glasses and contact lenses. With a 24-hour emergency eye-care service, patients can rest assured they have the best eye care in sight.

“Diabetics need to carefully monitor any changes to their vision. Symptoms that should be immediately checked by a professional are sudden blurry vision, a sudden, sharp pain in the eye, a loss of vision in one or both eyes, flashes of light and nausea, and vomiting or headaches accompanying eye complications,” continues Dr Niemandt.

“There is no such thing as ‘mild’ diabetes, and we take our responsibility to our patients seriously. As the medical fraternity continues to make strides in the treatment of diabetes and the optical side effects of the disease, we remain committed to embracing every opportunity to deliver holistic eye solutions. We are invested in people over and above treatment.”, concludes Niemandt.

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