7m Bangladeshis vulnerable to blindness from diabetics     

Published: November 21, 2017 20:37:00 | Updated: November 22, 2017 17:55:31


An international expert has warned that all diabetics are vulnerable to blindness.

They also noted that seven to 10 per cent of Bangladesh's population are currently suffering from diabetes.

"Now about seven million people in Bangladesh are suffering from diabetes. Of them, around 1.5 million are suffering from vision loss," said Dr Astrid Bonfield, Chief Executive of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, told UNB agency in an interview on Tuesday.

This kind of blindness are absolutely avoidable, she said, adding that one can stop further damage by checking his or her years and getting treated.

"If you are too late (in checking your eyes), you will get blind."

Diabetic Retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults. It is caused when poor control of blood sugar levels, high blood pressure and high lipid levels in the blood damage the blood vessels in the retina.

The disease does not present any early symptoms - people can have the condition for many years without knowing it. Once vision deteriorates it is often too late for treatment.

In Bangladesh, the issue is exacerbated by the fact that over half of all cases of diabetes are undiagnosed.

It is essential that all those with diabetes receive early screening, treatment and appropriate follow-up care, as this can reduce the risk of severe vision loss by 95 per cent.

Dr Astrid Bonfield said everyone should check up his or her eyes, because eyes are one of the important things people have.

"...better we, particularly the people having diabetics, should check up eyes to prevent avoidable blindness."

In Bangladesh, she said, her trust is working with the Fred Hollows Foundation on a programme to make people understand the blindness that caused by diabetics.

Highlighting the trend of diabetics, Bonfield said diabetics are increasing in Bangladesh and many other Commonwealth countries.

"One of the complications having diabetics is backed off your eyes construct your problem. If you do not get treatment, your will get a blight. So, we are doing here for making the community sensitised and help them to understand that if you get diabetics, you need to manage your diabetics and also need your eyes checked. And If you get your eyes checked, you can stop your going blind," he said.

Treatment of eyes is every expensive in a long way, the expert said, "So making sure, treating in a local hospital, I think more people have access to services to stop their blindness."

About the healthcare facilities in Bangladesh, Dr Bonfield said she feels very encouraged when she visited Barisal Sadar Hospital on Monday and saw the commitment of all of the medical professionals. "They are very committed to make the people healthy here. There is an amusing community. When I visited Barisal Hospital, I saw dedication and professionalism. I am very impressed...I am very happy seeing their level of commitment."

The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is a charitable foundation established to mark the Queen's 60 year contribution to the Commonwealth.

Dr Astrid Bonfield is currently in Dhaka on a working visit focusing on the Trust's avoidable blindness work in Bangladesh.

As the country with the second highest number of people with diabetes in the Commonwealth, she said this is a pertinent issue for Bangladesh.

Around one in 13 adults in Bangladesh has diabetes, equivalent to 7.1 million people aged 20-79 years. Of this, 27 per cent of people with diabetes in Bangladesh have diabetic retinopathy - this figure is expected to double by 2030, according to the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust.

In Bangladesh, the Trust is working to introduce screening for diabetic retinopathy into regular care for people with diabetes, and make it available for those living in remote settings, train staff, provide equipment for laser treatment, develop a patient record and referral system to ensure those at risk and raise awareness among people about avoidable blindness.

Diabetes is rapidly becoming a global epidemic, bringing with it rising rates of blindness. Bangladesh has one of the highest numbers of people with the diabetes in the world, with over 1.5 million people suffering from severe vision loss as a result. This number is expected to double by 2030.

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