Diabetes mellitus is a growing public health problem worldwide. The rapid increase in diabetes mellitus strongly parallels the increase in obesity around the world. The costs to society from complications of diabetes mellitus is enormous and growing. Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading cause of new cases of legal blindness among Singaporeans. It is caused by cumulative damage to the small blood vessels in the retina (the light sensing tissue in the back of the eye). Although the precise cause of this damage is unknown, it is believed that poorly controlled blood sugar levels are related to its progression.
Worldwide there are approximately 120 million people with diabetes mellitus. Approximately half of these individuals have not yet been diagnosed and are unaware that they have the condition.
Most patients with diabetes have Non-Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM) and control their blood sugar with oral medications or diet alone. This form of the disease is sometimes called "adult-onset" or Type II diabetes. The rest have Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM), also called "younger or juvenile-onset" or Type I diabetes, and must use insulin injections daily to regulate their blood sugar levels.
The risk of diabetic retinopathy increases with time for patients with diabetes. After 5 years, approximately one-quarter of patients with IDDM have retinopathy (damage to blood vessels in the retina). By 15 years, nearly everyone with IDDM has some retinal damage.
Diabetics as a group have 25 times the usual risk of blindness. High blood pressure or pregnancy can significantly accelerate the progression of diabetic retinopathy. These statistics underscore the importance of regular eye examinations for diabetic patients.
If a diabetic patient has regular eye check-ups and is treated when necessary the risk of blindness can be significantly decreased. Additionally, good blood sugar, blood pressure, lipid control and regular exercise significantly decrease the progression of retinopathy and are an important part of diabetic retinopathy management.
Camden Medical Centre,
1 Orchard Boulevard,
Tel: 6738 2000
Fax: 6738 2111