Nutritional management of Diabetes during the pandemic
November 17, 2021
November 17, 2021

Don’t lose sight because of diabetes

By Petra Bridgemohan, Consulting Optometrist

The Bible records many stories of Jesus healing the blind. Were they diabetics?

As a former public health optometrist, I always emphasise the need for all diabetics to have regular retinal screenings. This is part of a regular eye examination, either with your optometrist or ophthalmologist. Both are eye-care professionals who work in public health eye clinics or private practices.

World Diabetes Day was Sunday November 14. The theme for World Diabetes Day 2021–23 was Access to Diabetes Care – If Not Now, When?

When indeed will there be a National Diabetic Retinal Screening programme launched which incorporates trained screeners, ophthalmic nurses, optometrists, and ophthalmic medical practitioners in public health clinics.

The Eastern Regional Health Authority piloted such a model at community health centres. Similar pilot projects have been rolled out by the South-West Regional Health Authority, and some health centres attached to the North West Regional Health Authority. The North Central Regional Health Authority also has diabetic retinal screening.

These all need to be expanded and integrated while employing suitable human resources from our University of the West Indies’ trained graduates (doctors/optometrists/nurses/pharmacists etc.).


Why retinal screening matters

Poorly controlled diabetes can lead to vision loss and blindness if not treated promptly, so early detection through retinal screening with regular eye exams can act as preventative measures for various complications of diabetes such as blindness/kidney (dialysis) and amputation issues.

Better diabetic control along with early retinal screening means early treatment intervention, hence less blindness and other diabetic complications.

Retinal screening by eye care professionals or trained screeners in a long overdue National Diabetic Retinal screening programme along with delivery of vitreoretinal services in all RHA eye departments for accessible, affordable, urgent treatment is a must for future health delivery of the diabetic population.


What can I do to reduce

my risk?

If you are diabetic and have not had an eye exam because of the pandemic, please make an eye appointment now with your eyecare practitioner. Online appointments are becoming the norm and testing adheres to Covid protocols clinically.

Self-testing/self-check, glucose monitoring and fluctuating visions check are important.

All diabetics and especially those poorly controlled are at risk of becoming blind due to retinal ‘bleeding’ related to poorly managed diabetes.

Even moderately managed diabetics risk long-term blindness so retinal evaluations with eye care professionals are important.


What is your risk?

I assume you have a self-monitor test kit as provided freely by public health service for all diabetics registered at local health centres clinics.

Please do register at your health centre if you are diabetic to get these services.

To evaluate your Diabetic Blindness Risk, please answer YES or NO to the following self-risk evaluation statements:

  1. I am a known (doctor diagnosed) diabetic with self-test monitor readings below 150 regularly.
  2. I have been reviewed by my medical doctor (DR) in the last six months.
  3. I have been seen by an eye care professional for diabetic retinal screening within the last six months.
  4. I adhere to my diet/exercise and medication management for diabetes.
  5. I know the complications of poorly managed diabetes.
  6. I have private health insurance to cover my diabetic complications if they arise.

If you have answered ‘yes’ to all, then you are a successfully self-managed diabetic. Encourage others so we can reduce the burden on our stressed public health and help prevent blindness, kidney, and amputation complications common to poorly managed diabetics.


Did you know…

In 2013, the Minister of Health approved full funding for T&T’s first ever National Eye Survey of T&T (NESTT) – internationally designed research (UK/UWI) done locally. The results are reported globally in the international eye care research publication.

‘The Prevalence and Causes of Blindness and Vision Impairment in T&T’ NESTT Study Group Et AL (2017) reported that in T&T the risk of diabetic-related blindness was more significant than expected with 11.4 per cent blindness (one in every 12 diabetics) and 7.9 per cent moderate vision impairment (one in eight diabetics).

T&T’s diagnosed adult diabetic population make up an estimated 20 per cent of the population (one in every five persons).