Most blindness avoidable in Pacific
The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness says 80 percent of vision loss in the region is caused by the three preventable conditions: cataracts, refractive errors and diabetic retinopathy.
The Pacific coordinator of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness says 80% of vision loss in the region is caused by the three conditions of cataracts, refractive errors and diabetic retinopathy.
Eye specialists from around the region have been meeting in Fiji and Dr Ana Cama told Jenny Meyer diabetes is at a critical stage across the whole Pacific and people need to have their eyes checked early to save their sight.
Dr Ana Cama says visual loss from diabetic retinopathy can be delayed if treated early and the condition is closely linked with blood sugar control which can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes.
ANA CAMA: All the three causes are avoidable. Now when we say avoidable blindness, it means that causes are either preventable, or they are treatable. So for cataracts, we have cataract surgery that's available at most of the Pacific Island countries, either provided as a service in-country or as an out-reach service. For uncorrected refractive errors we have optometrists and other optical programmes that supply low cost spectacles. And for diabetes retinopathy, because that vision loss from diabetes retinopathy is a complication, we see it as one of the causes of vision impairment that is more I suppose preventable. Once vision loss sets in from diabetic retinopathy, vision cannot be fully restored. So we can prevent its onset or delay the onset but once sight-threatening retinopathy happens in a person, normal vision is quite difficult to restore. But on the whole yes, all three causes are avoidable cuases of blindness and vision loss.
JENNY MEYER: Diabetes I guess is a growing problem in the Pacific, are you seeing more and more of that diabetic retinopathy due you think?
AC: Yes we are. Diabetes is definitely, probably, in a critical state across the whole Pacific. We have prevalence of diabetes going up. We have the WHO NCD step survey that if it's in Fiji alone, not only is the prevalence going up but we are starting to see them in the younger generation. And what is a bit horrifying is that the younger generation of people that are still working, have fully paid jobs and these are the people who are at risk of developing visual impairment and eventually if not treated they could lose their sight, lose their job, and then all the other implications of having early retirement could all come into play as well.
JM: What can be done do you think to try and encourage people to seek help earlier, as you say it's not fully preventable, how would people first notice that perhaps they might have a problem, some of them may not even know they have diabetes?
AC: Yeah that's true and for us, if we tell people who are diabetic, or people who have family and friends who are diabetic, as soon as they are diagnosed it would be good to come in for a good eye exam. The reason is people who are diabetic can have damage or retinopathy that causes visual loss, present at the back of their eye, but they have normal vision. So having normal sight is not an indication of presence or the severity of the diabetic retinopathy. And that's why we encourage diabetics to come in early for an eye check.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: