Monday, December 19, 2011

Vision loss the most feared complication of diabetes, patient poll reveals


About 70,000 Canadians affected by vision loss resulting from diabetic macular edema

DORVAL, Quebec, December 19, 2011 /Canada NewsWire Telbec/ - A new poll of persons with diabetes across Canada shows that vision loss is the most feared complication of the disease.

The poll found that almost half (46%) of persons with prediabetes or diabetes feared vision loss the most as a complication of their disease. This was more than twice as many (21%) who said they feared losing limbs and three times as high as the 15% who said they most feared cardiovascular complications.

Most Canadians, 84%, are aware that vision loss can be a complication of diabetes. The poll also found that 78% of Canadians consider themselves very or somewhat familiar with the disease and 70% say they either have or know someone with prediabetes or diabetes. Four in 10 Canadians (40%) say they are very or moderately concerned they will develop diabetes, but this ranges from three in 10 (30%) in British Columbia to nearly half (49%) in Quebec. Ontario is close to the national average at 39%.

Vision loss is an important complication of diabetes because of the impact of the disease on the small blood vessels at the back of the eye. Longtime, elevated blood sugar levels can result in fluid leaking from these vessels in the macula at the back of the eye which is responsible for central vision. The fluid causes swelling, referred to as diabetic macular edema (DME) which can result in steadily deteriorating vision over time. It is estimated that vision loss resulting from DME affects approximately 70,000 Canadians, making it one of the major causes of adult-onset vision loss.

"Ophthalmologists previously used laser to treat DME to reduce the vision loss," said Dr. David Wong, a retina specialist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. "The newer treatment that's been approved by Health Canada is different from the older treatment in that it is a needle injected into the eye and it is effective in stabilizing and improving vision in diabetic macular edema."

A patient who has recently received the new treatment for vision loss from DME is Kashiram Joshi, who lives in the Toronto region. Diagnosed with diabetes in 1994, several years ago he started having troubles with blurry vision, which continued even after cataract surgery, until he received the new treatment.

"I noticed an improvement after the first injection, and it's kept on getting better," he said. "I had given up reading, except for short times with a magnifying glass. Now my eyesight is almost 20/20 and I read and do everything else without a problem. The difference is like night and day."


The key to preventing such vision loss in diabetes is getting an early diagnosis of the disease and ensuring treatment brings blood sugar levels under control, added Dr. Wong.
"Patients with diabetes or at risk of getting diabetes should control their blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol and live an active normal healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of diabetic complications."


About diabetic macular edema

Diabetes prevalence in Canada is growing at epidemic levels. Currently, one in four Canadians have diabetes or prediabetes and if trends continue this will rise to one in three by 2020.

DME is a common complication of diabetic retinopathy, which is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the retina and is the leading cause of vision loss in working-aged adults in the developed world. In people with diabetes, elevated blood sugar levels can lead to problems with the blood circulatory system. These problems can result in symptoms in various areas of the body, such as extremities, but also including the small blood vessels in the retina of the eye. These vessels then leak, which causes swelling (edema) of the macula, the centre of the retina responsible for sharp and straight ahead vision. Therefore, DME can lead to significant visual impairment.

The first symptoms of DME are most often "floaters" or spots in the line of vision, then blurry vision. DME usually progresses slowly with worsening symptoms and is a lifelong condition. DME with visual impairment affects 2.6% of diabetics in Canada.

The Vision Critical / Angus Reid Forum poll

From Nov. 15 to 16, 2011, an online survey was conducted among 2,215 randomly selected Canadian adults, including 168 individuals with diabetes or prediabetes, who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error for the whole sample, which measures sampling variability, is +/- 2.08% 19 times out of 20. The results were statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada.

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc.

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc., a leader in the healthcare field, is committed to the discovery, development and marketing of innovative products to improve the well-being of all Canadians. In 2010, the company invested close to $100 million in research and development in Canada. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. employs more than 600 people in Canada. It was named for the seventh time as one of the "50 Best Employers in Canada" for 2011. For further information, please consult www.novartis.ca.

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