PETALING JAYA, Malaysia - An increasing number of diabetic patients aged below 30 years old are going blind from the disease.
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of visual loss among working adults in the country, although it is a preventable condition.
"Diabetic retinopathy in Malaysia is still not being detected," consultant ophthalmologist Dr Kenneth Fong said.
This, he said, was because many patients were unaware that they needed to go for regular eye examinations despite having had diabetes for years.
The 2007 Diabetic Eye Registry reported that 70.9 per cent of diabetic patients had never been for an eye examination.
Regular eye check-ups are crucial as diabetic retinopathy has no symptoms in the early stages of the disease when the damage can still be reversed through treatment.
Diabetic retinopathy is also an inevitable consequence of having diabetes.
Around half of diabetic patients will have some sort of diabetic retinopathy after 10 years.
This increases to almost all patients with Type 1 diabetes mellitus and over 60 per cent of patients with Type 2 diabetes mellitus after 20 years of having the disease.
According to consultant dietitian Goo Chui Hoong, there is also a lack of commitment in controlling food intake among diabetics.
"Many people don't realise that diabetes is a lifelong condition and they need to control their diet and take their medications for life," she said.
Diet control is also made difficult as the typical Malaysian diet is high-glycaemic, she added.
Dr Fong and Goo have co-authored a book called Food For Your Eyes, which covers both eye health, and related foods and recipes.
Published by Star Publications (M) Bhd, the book will be available at all major bookstores and selected Klang Valley Focus Point outlets.