The importance of annual eye exams in detecting other diseases
The rising levels of obesity in the UK, the most overweight country in Europe, are likely to lead to a corresponding increase in diabetes sufferers over the next 20 years, and further underlines the need for early detection of the debilitating condition.
According to figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), the UK currently ranks as the country with the highest level of obesity in Europe with more than one-in-four (28.1%) adults classified as obese and nearly two-out-of-three (63.4%) overweight.
Over the next 20 years, the number of obese adults in the country is forecast to rise to 26 million people. And according to health experts within the NHS, this would result in more than a million extra cases of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Although the exact causes of diabetes are still not fully understood, it is known that factors increase the risk of developing different types of diabetes and, for type 2 diabetes, this includes being overweight or obese. That’s why early diagnosis is vital.
How eye examinations can help
“Most people don’t know that a comprehensive eye exam can play a critical role in the early detection of chronic diseases like diabetes, and prevent vision loss caused by it,” said Jeremy Chadwick, managing director, EMEA at VSP Vision Care.
“In fact, signs of diabetes can be detected with a comprehensive eye exam up to seven years before a person shows symptoms, allowing individuals to make healthy lifestyle changes before suffering any permanent damage.”
Diabetes affects the blood vessels in the back of the eyes, and through a comprehensive eye exam, an optometrist has an unobstructed and non-invasive view of those blood vessels.
If left untreated, those with diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness in adults. Because the early stages of diabetic retinopathy are asymptomatic, an annual eye exam is a must, especially for those living with diabetes.
The impact of diabetes
Every year, more than 1,700 people in the UK have their sight seriously affected by their diabetes, according to diabetes charity, Diabetes.org.uk.
Type 2 diabetes, in particular, has been growing at a high rate and is now one of the world’s most common chronic health conditions, due to growing obesity levels.
One-in-ten people over 40 in the UK are now living with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, which accounts for about 90% of all diabetes cases, while type 1 diabetes accounts for approximately 10%.
The cost of diabetes to the UK economy is huge. Every year the NHS spends around £14 billion on treating diabetes and its complications. This figure does not reflect the cost of absence, reduced productivity and other costs, such as healthcare management for employers.
Therefore, it is crucial to take steps, such as a comprehensive eye exam, to detect conditions like diabetes earlier and prevent vision loss caused by it.
This article is provided by VSP Vision Care.
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