Campaign to highlight awareness of sight-threatening condition in people with diabetes

According to research, over three quarters (75 per cent) of people with diabetes in Ireland have not heard of the condition diabetic macular oedema (DMe also known as DMO, because Americans spell Oedema as Edema). DMe is the most common form of diabetic retinopathy DR, which is the biggest cause of blindness in working-age Irish adults.

According to the National Council for the Blind in Ireland, NCBI and Diabetes Action, DR causes, on average, one person with diabetes to go blind each week in Ireland.Research conducted amongst members of Diabetes Ireland showed that risk to eye sight is clearly the health complication that people with diabetes are most concerned about 42 per cent, followed by heart conditions 26 per cent and kidney damage 26 per cent.

Despite this concern, however, over a quarter of people with diabetes are not getting their recommended annual full eye examination. A number of patient organisations have come together to launch a new campaign to highlight the eyesight risks associated with diabetes, the importance of eye screening and the treatments that are available should anyone with diabetes develop diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetes Ireland, Association of Optometrists Ireland, the Irish College of Ophthalmologists, and Fighting Blindness, with the support of Novartis, hosted a public information evening entitled ‘VisualEYES the Risks: Managing your diabetes and diabetic retinopathy, Thursday May 31 at the O’Callaghan Alexander Hotel, Dublin.

Mr Kieran O’Leary, CEO of Diabetes Ireland, said: “The number of people with diabetes in Ireland is growing rapidly and at present there are an estimated 210,000 people with the condition and approximately 30,000 of these undiagnosed.  In some cases diabetes can lead to vision impairment and even vision loss.  The most effective way to prevent vision loss as a result of diabetes is to control your diabetes properly. This includes being sure to attend all your healthcare appointments and to have a full eye examination on an annual basis.”

According to Mr Mark Cahill, consultant ophthalmologist at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin: “The main issue with diabetic retinopathy is that in the early stages, there are no symptoms of the condition and there is no pain experienced.  This means that anyone with diabetes should make sure to have a full eye exam, on an annual basis, so that any signs of diabetic retinopathy can be detected as early as possible. By far the most common form of diabetic retinopathy which may damage your vision is DMO. This accounts for eight out of ten cases of diabetic retinopathy. There are very effective treatments available for diabetic Retinopathy, including DMO, in the form of injections and laser.  These treatments can slow progression and even restore lost vision; however, early diagnosis is crucial to maximise their effectiveness.”

Ms Loretto Callaghan, Managing Director of Novartis Ireland, said: “In addition to supporting clinical trials in ophthalmology in Ireland, Novartis is delighted to support this campaign to help raise awareness of sight-threatening conditions such as diabetic retinopathy and DMO, and to help patients in Ireland get access to innovative treatments for their condition.” For more information visit www.diabetes.ie

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