World Diabetes Day 2017: Eyes on diabetes

Medical content revised by - Last revision 14/11/2017
World Diabetes Day 2017: Eyes on diabetes

Observed annually at a global scale, World Diabetes Day is a day dedicated to raise awareness. The first World Diabetes Day was organised in 1991 by World Health Organization (WHO) alongside International Diabetes Federation (IDF), due to the huge increase of diabetes cases in the world. In 2006, the UN adopted it as a United Nations International Day.

What is the purpose of World Diabetes Day?

Faced to the huge and overwhelming increase in the number of diabetes cases in the world, the World Diabetes Day is celebrated aiming to raise awareness on causes, symptoms and complications diabetes may cause, as well as the treatments for the disease, and especially how can we prevent diabetes and reduce its incidence among population.

Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes

There are two types of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes. It is believed to be caused by an autoimmune attack, whose causes are not known with certainty, on the cells that produce insulin within the pancreas. Therefore, the organ stops producing it and patients need to rely on insulin. It cannot be prevented.

Type 2 diabetes. The body of people affected by type 2 diabetes produces insulin, but at insufficient amount or of low quality. In this case, the onset seems to be related with overweight, a poor nutrition and genetic factors, that may favour it. There are methods to prevent it.

Relevant information on type 2 diabetes

  • In 2015, 415 million adults suffered diabetes, and this number is expected to grow till 642 million people, or 1 every 10 adults, by 2040
  • 46% of adults who suffer from diabetes is undiagnosed, reason why when they get diagnosed, many times complications are already present.
  • 70% of type 2 diabetes cases (160 million cases) could be prevented or delayed by leading a much healthier lifestyle.
  • 12% of global expenditure in health is dedicated to treat adults with diabetes.
  • Early detection of type 2 diabetes may help modify its progression and reduce the risk of suffering complications, such as diabetic retinopathy or other eye diseases related to diabetes, such as ARMD or retinal vein and artery occlusions.
  • In many countries, diabetes is one of the main causes of blindness and other serious complications.

World Diabetes Day

World Diabetes Day

How can diabetes affect our vision? Can it lead to blindness?

Some disorders and complications in vision associated to diabetes are:

  • diabetic retinopathy, a vascular disease consisting in an alteration of the blood vessel walls caused by the high blood glucose levels, that make such walls more permeable and causes several vision problems;
  • vitreous humour haemorrhages, caused by diabetic retinopathy;
  • macular oedema, a flooding of the central area in the retina;
  • retinal detachment caused by its traction;
  • cataracts, caused by the higher predisposition of diabetic people to suffer them;
  • neovascular glaucoma, a type of secondary glaucoma associated to diabetes mellitus.

What can I do to prevent diabetes from affecting my vision?

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented and there are no detection tests for this diabetes type in people who do not experience symptoms.

Type 2 diabetes, however, may be prevented.  The following measures may be taken:

  • Going to regular ophthalmological examinations, in order to detect possible complications of type 1 and 2 diabetes, as 1 every 3 people affected by diabetes suffers some kind of diabetic retinopathy.
  • Eating a healthy diet, with low-fat foods with appropriate amounts of nutrients, such as vegetables, lean (low-fat) proteins), whole grains and breads, fruit and dairy products.
  • Reducing the intake of high-calorie sugary drinks and ready meals.
  • Practicing sport activities and being active, avoiding sedentary activities and performing activities that require movement.

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