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There is need to ‘keep an eye on diabetes’
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ABU DHABI: There are currently over one million people living with diabetes in the UAE, with an estimated 42 per cent of patients living with issues with their eyes.

The most common type of diabetic eye disease termed “Diabetic Retinopathy” is an often overlooked issue. This is a topic often not discussed widely, warned an expert in the capital recently.

Dr Madhav Rao, Consultant Ophthalmologist and Vitreo-Retinal Surgeon at Burjeel Hospital speaking to ‘The Gulf Today’ said Diabetic Retinopathy in simple terms, is when high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels in the retina which results in the swelling or leaking of these blood vessels.

There are different types of diabetic retinopathy, which are classed as mild, moderate and severe. For example, Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy is where abnormal new blood vessels begin to grow on the retina. However, the most prevalent cause for visual impairment in patients with diabetes is Diabetic Macular Edema, which causes vision loss and is particularly common in a working age group and requires long-term management. This can affect their ability to continue working and dramatically disrupt their lives.

Dr Rao adds that patients with Diabetic Macular Edema are younger compared to the patients often seen by the ophthalmologist. Moreover, prevalence in the UAE is more common among the male population.

Dr Rao says that it is not necessarily true globally as it’s a slightly skewed demographic in the UAE. “The average age of diagnosis is fifty years old and it is the leading cause of vision loss in working-age people. In some cases that is when vision loss has already become too disruptive to complete daily tasks.”

Diabetes is very common in the MENA region, and some children are diagnosed with diabetes as young as five years old. These patients, who are diagnosed at a young age, may have eye conditions linked to diabetes.

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