National Diabetes Week July 12 – July 18
About 7 % of Australians have diabetes. July 12 to July 18 is National Diabetes Week which aims to promote awareness and education about this serious condition which can affect the entire body. Diabetes requires daily self care and – if complications develop – diabetes can have a significant impact on quality of life and can reduce life expectancy. Diabetes is the leading cause of both blindness in working age adults and kidney failure and dialysis. Diabetes increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke by up to four times and it is a major cause of limb amputations.
A key point here is that diabetes is a vascular disease and it causes vascular complications. There is a famous story in the USA about Lee Iacocca and how he highlighted this problem after his wife died at the relatively young age of 52. Iacocca was an American automobile executive best known for the development of the Ford Mustang and he is a major character in the 2019 film Ford v Ferrari. He was then president and CEO of Chrysler for almost 15 years. Iacocca’s wife Mary had type 1 diabetes for many years, and she suffered for decades from a combination of heart and vascular problems (including suffering multiple strokes) leading up to her death. Iacocca and his wife noted that because the word ‘diabetes’ rarely appears on the death certificate, the public underestimated the severity of this problem. When Mary died, Iacocca made sure the death certificate told the true story: complications from diabetes.
Approximately 2 % of people who have had diabetes for 15 years or longer will become blind and 10 % will develop severe visual impairment. Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease caused by the complications of diabetes and it is the most common way in which diabetes affects vision. Vision loss and potential blindness can be prevented if diabetic retinopathy is detected and treated early. The most common form of treatment is laser photocoagulation of the retina. Studies have also shown that intensive treatment and tight control of blood glucose levels dramatically reduces the development and progression of diabetic retinopathy in diabetic patients (as well as decreasing the likelihood of other potential vascular related problems such as heart attack, stroke and kidney failure).
So if you are diabetic, or know someone who is diabetic – make sure you or the person you know have a yearly check-up. They are so important in detecting early retinopathy. Medicare gives a rebate every 12 months, so there really is no excuse!