President & CEO, Diabetes Canada
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of sight loss in people living with diabetes. Awareness and proper management are essential.
Peter McCarthy, 65, from New Minas, Nova Scotia, has lived with type 1 diabetes since age 40. About four years ago on a routine eye exam, he learned he has diabetic retinopathy, an eye condition that involves changes to the retinal blood vessels that can cause them to bleed or leak fluid, ultimately distorting vision. Nearly all people living with type 1 diabetes and over 60 per cent of people living with type 2 diabetes have some degree of retinopathy after 20 years of living with the condition.
Early diagnosis and access to treatment critical
Thanks to early diagnosis and access to treatment, McCarthy has been able to slow the deterioration of his vision. Every five weeks he travels to Halifax for eye injections and recently had his left lens replaced. “That’s given me a new lease on life as I’m able to read again, which I really enjoy,” says McCarthy.
One of the things we’re recommending is that provincial and territorial governments develop their own diabetes strategy that aligns with the Framework for Diabetes in Canada and that highlights the importance of vision care in the management of diabetes.
For the past six years, he’s used an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor to help manage his diabetes. “I’m a big fan and wish this technology had been around 25 years ago. It’s a real game changer for me,” he says. Monitoring blood glucose levels is critical for people living with diabetes as high levels over time can damage the vessels in the eye and increase the risk of sight loss.
Diabetic retinopathy is one of many diabetes complications, that can be prevented or delayed with screening, education, and early treatment. “Eye health is a priority issue for Diabetes Canada as we advocate for improved care, management, and treatment of the condition through the Framework for diabetes in Canada. We continue to recommend provincial and territorial governments develop their own diabetes strategy that aligns with the Framework and that underscores the importance of vision care in the management of diabetes.” says Laura Syron, President and CEO of Diabetes Canada.
Learn more about Diabetes Canada’s recommendations to reduce the risk of sight loss in people living with diabetes at diabetes.ca.