This week is National Diabetes Week (14-20 July 2019) and Diabetes Australia has issued a wakeup call about the diabetes epidemic which is overwhelming Australia’s hospitals. The It’s About Time campaign is driven by a new study found that people with diabetes accounted for around one-third of all hospitalisations.
A recent study at Austin Health, a major tertiary health service in Melbourne’s north-east, found that 34 per cent of patients had diabetes. And of these, 5 per cent had silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes that was only detected after they were admitted to hospital.
Diabetes Australia estimates that up to half a million Australians have silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. If not diagnosed early, type 2 diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, kidney damage, amputation and heart attack.
Diabetes and your eyesight
Diabetes has become one the biggest public health issues of our times. While some of its causes and effects are well publicised, its effect on eyesight is less widely known – as is the fact that an eye examination with an optometrist can uncover a diagnosis. It’s not uncommon to have a diabetes-related eye illness and not even know it, and according to research by American Optometric Association (AOA), that’s a possibility 79 per cent of people are not aware of.
Diabetes can affect many parts of the eyes in a number of ways, with symptoms increasing in severity as the illness progresses. Problems with vision can occur (blurring, fluctuation, double vision), and it’s believed diabetes may also contribute to cataracts and glaucoma. However, the most debilitating impact the disease can have on the eyes is diabetic retinopathy. And it is not uncommon. Eighty per cent of people who have lived with diabetes for 20 years or more are affected.
With the rates of diabetes-related eye disease tipped to increase by 35 per cent over the next 15 years, it is crucial for people who have been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes to seek regular eye checks beyond the standard once every two years. An Australian study concluded that the effects of 90 per cent of new cases could be reduced with proper monitoring of the eyes.
And according to research released by the AOA in November 2017, optometrists spotted diabetes-related markers in more than 320,000 U.S. patients, who were previously unaware they had diabetes. So, for people without diabetes, the clear message here is that having a comprehensive eye examination every two years could pick up your diabetes early, potentially saving your eyesight – or your life.
Find an optometrist in your local area here.