35% of diabetics can develop sight problems within 5 years
Diabetes can not only cause retinopathy and macular oedema, it also increases the risk of glaucoma and cataracts
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease that is suffered by over half a million people in Catalonia. The control of risk factors and levels of glycosylated haemoglobin, blood pressure and hyperlipidaemia is essential for any diabetic. Therefore, it is necessary to make patients aware of the importance of regular check-ups with both the endocrinologist and other specialists, including the ophthalmologist, since the patient can develop eye diseases that can lead to blindness.
"This early detection will enable us to act quickly because, at present, we have a lot of treatments that have completely changed the options that previously existed", says Dr Jordi Monés MD, PhD, Director of the Institut de la Màcula, an international benchmark centre in Barcelona and a specialist in this type of pathology.
One of the most common retinal complications that threaten vision is diabetic macular oedema, in which there is an accumulation of fluid in the macula. In Spain, 1 in 10 diabetics suffers from this. The other serious complication is proliferative diabetic retinopathy, in which retinal neovessels grow at the interface between the retina and the vitreous, which can cause vitreous haemorrhages and retinal detachments.
The possibility of developing diabetic retinopathy increases with the duration of the systemic disease. According to statistics, 25% of people who suffer from type I diabetes will develop it in the first 5 years, with this percentage rising to 35% in the case of type II diabetes. Over time, the risk increases to 75% in the former case and 55% in the latter.
For the optician-optometrist and Doctor in Biomedicine Marc Biarnés, researcher at the Institut de la Màcula, the first step is to try to prevent retinal disease and, if it occurs, to address it quickly in order to gain a greater margin of action. "It is advisable for diabetics who do not have retinopathy to undergo annual ophthalmological examinations. If they do develop it, the examinations would be scheduled according to its degree of severity in order to control it".