Sun, Feb 11, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Diabetes patients getting younger, risk blindness

DIET CONTROL:Diabetes is trending younger, causing eye doctors to be concerned, as most people with type 1 and 60% of people with type 2 develop retinal disorders

By Ou Su-mei and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Young Taiwanese are increasingly developing type 2 diabetes due to a high-calorie diet and frequent consumption of sugary drinks, Lee General Hospital Dajia Branch ophthalmologist Hsu Hao-en (徐浩恩) said, adding that the condition also affects vision.

That younger people are contracting diabetes is worrying eye doctors, because it might precipitate retinal disorders or exacerbate existing ones, he said.

A 14-year-old girl came to the hospital’s emergency room for flu treatment, but was diagnosed with severe type 2 diabetes after blood tests showed her fasting blood glucose level to be 300 milligrams per deciliter and glycated hemoglobin level to be at 14.5 percent, Hsu said.

Her diabetic condition explained her deteriorating vision, he said.

“Diabetes’ effect on eyesight is severe and nearly irreparable,” he said.

Excessive blood sugar levels harm blood vessels and bleeding from damaged retinal capillaries causes vision loss, while insufficient blood supply could cause retinal necrosis or fragility in affected areas, he said.

Fragile retinal areas are more susceptible to repeated bleeding and could create scar tissue that further degrades vision or causes retinal detachment or breakage, conditions that result in partial or total blindness, he said.

Many young people with diabetes do not mind their diet or blood sugar level, which increases the risk of blindness or vision loss from conditions such as retinal disorders, cataracts, glaucoma or others, he said.

The risk of retinal disorders is reduced by strictly controlling the blood sugar level, he said, adding that patients should listen to their doctors, take their medication on time and ask for professional advice regarding diet and lifestyle.

The number of people aged 18 and older with diabetes has increased at a rate of 25,000 people per year, while an estimated 11.8 percent of the nation’s total population — about 2.28 million people — have diabetes, Hsu said, citing a Ministry of Health and Welfare national nutrition and health report covering 2013 to 2015.

Hsu also cited the Wisconsin Epidemiologic Study of Diabetic Retinopathy as saying that people with type 1 diabetes almost always develop retinal disorders after 15 to 20 years, while 20 percent are at risk of blindness.

The study also said that 60 percent of people with type 2 diabetes develop retinal disorders, he added.

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