Diabetes is on the increase in Zimbabwe and has been one of the major causes of blindness in people.
This was said this week by eye specialist, founder and chairman of Eyes for Africa, Dr Solomon Guramatunhu, at his surgery in Harare during an interview with NewsDay.
Guramatunhu said a lot of people, including the educated, were getting blind due to lack of knowledge of how diabetes as an ailment could lead to blindness.
“There is a high increase of diabetes and it is causing blindness because it is a disease of the blood vessels and causes leakages of water, blood and foods eaten and can also close some blood vessels and make them fail to supply enough blood to people’s feet,” said Guramatunhu. “However, blindness can be prevented if people keep their sugar levels well controlled, control their blood pressure, control fats, cholesterol levels, obesity and avoid smoking,” he said.
Guramatunhu said it was important for people to heed the calls to prevent diabetes and blindness because eye operations were very expensive and could cost up to R40 000 in South Africa.
“Diabetes patients are encouraged to seek treatment earlier and get their eyes tested to prevent blindness on time. There are 98% chances to prevent blindness if patients undergo retina treatment,” he said.
An eye specialist from the United States, Dr Kimball Woodward, who was this week working with Guramatunhu, said throughout the world diabetes had emerged the number one cause for lots of young people going blind.
“Five people out of 100 are developing diabetes, which is making them go blind, but it is preventable. People should get their eyes examined even if they feel well because eye specialists can spot diabetes even if people feel as if there is nothing wrong with them,” said Woodward.
Woodward said although it was difficult for most people to afford regular medical checkups in less developed economies, it was imperative for people to try and control their blood levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
“The most important thing is that people make eye care available for themselves once a year so that blindness can be prevented. People should have a well-controlled diet and regular exercise to prevent diabetes and eye damage,” Woodward said.