Kenyans cautioned over Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes day 

NAIROBI, Kenya, 14 November 2016 – Diabetic retinopathy has emerged as  one of the most common and earliest complications of diabetes. According to the Ministry of Health a third of the people living with diabetes have developed this condition.

Speaking during the World Diabetes Day 2016 event on Monday, Deputy Head of the Non Communicable Diseases Control Unit, Dr. Gladwell Gatheca revealed that diabetic retinopathy occurs when the blood vessels of the eye get damaged as a result of uncontrolled blood sugar levels.

This results in reduced blood circulation to the eyes and growth of abnormal blood vessels in an effort  to improve blood circulation. These  blood vessels easily bleed into the eyes obscuring vision and subsequently leading to blindness if not identified early.

Dr. Gatheca explained that condition is irreversible and it is important for persons living with diabetes to get their eyes screened at least once a year. If caught early, the progression of visual loss may be stopped through LASER therapy, injections into the eyes and advanced surgery to remove blood clots in the eyes.

“It is an early complication of diabetes that makes the blood vessels to bleed out. This condition compromises circulation to the eyes but it can be prevented if it is noticed early. The tests can be conducted in any health facility and can referred in case there is need for advanced tests,” she observed.

She added that  patients with diabetes could also develop Cataract or Glaucomaearly,  especially if their sugar control remains poor. Dr. Gatheca urged such patients  to ensure that they control their blood sugar levels through good diets, physical exercises and medicines as prescribed by the doctor.

“It is also important to control hypertension and other diseases that may exist together with diabetes and be on the  look out for signs of this disease. These include: a feeling of increased thirst, increased urge to eat, general fatigue, frequent urination, weight loss in some cases and  blurred vision in the later stages,” she highlighted.

Although an estimated 800,000 to one million Kenyans are reported to have diabetes, Dr. Gatheca pointed out that the figure could be higher. She explained that the STEPS Survey that was recently conducted by the Ministry of Health indicated that only 12 percent of Kenyans have ever been screened for diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes, which commonly occurs in adults, constitutes over 90 percent of the total diabetes burden. It can be prevented by lifestyle changes such as consumption of healthy diet and increased physical activity, avoidance of the use of tobacco and avoidance of the harmful use of alcohol.

“As we mark the World Diabetes Day we call upon the public to go for annual eye examinations from their health care providers. In addition, we call upon the public to adopt good health habits that will reduce the risks of developing diabetes and its complications,”  Dr. Gatheca warned.

The Ministry of Health with support from its partners has at the same time set up centers of excellence for comprehensive diabetic management in Machakos, Kakamega and Mombasa Counties. An additional center has also been set up in Nakuru Counties and will be inaugurated on Thursday in line with World Diabetes Day. These centers have already been equipped with technology that will enable screening and treatment for diabetic retinopathy.

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