Seventy percent of all blindness in Kigali results from diabetes, according to medical surveys carried out by the Rwandese Association for Diabetes (ARD).
Because diabetic blindness is not curable, the ARD has established a programme for free medical check-ups for diabetes patients so they can improve access treatment and help patients manage the disease before blindness and other debilitating side-effects set in.
The report findings indicate most patients were ignorant of their condition and risks of the disease. The association will hold sensitisation seminars about the dangers of this type of blindness in the next year in order to spread awareness about the threat and ways to avoid it.
The causes of diabetes include excessive insulin in the blood or insulin deficiency in the blood. It can bring about amputation, impotence and several other symptoms.
The only way to avoid or reduce these effects is to normalize sugar levels in the blood by controlled diet as per a physician’s recommendations. Blindness can attack patients regardless of the type of diabetes, whether a patient suffers from type 1 or type 2.
According to Dr. Gishoma of ARD, a person should visit a health facility as often as possible to make sure their sugar levels are in control.
People with high sugar intake are advised to eat sugar-free foods in order to maintain glycaemia (sugar level in the blood). ARD Rwanda will be carrying out a free periodical medical check up in regard to the diabetes related blindness, on the first Saturday of the month.
According to Vedaste Kaberuka of ARD, the importance of regular visits is to make sure that patients are taught about the ways of handling diabetic conditions, and the way of learning to have relevant nutrition, as it is the best ways of containing the disease.
This is done by ARD in conjunction with King Faisal Hospital. Such test also includes the test of sugar level, and high blood pressure.
Normally a patient is supposed to undergo a test at least once annually, so as to evaluate how far blindness has reached in order to start off with treatment.
The examination is called Retino pathie diabétique, whereas the treatment is known as Rayon laser, but the equipment used in treating this type of blindness is not available in Rwanda. King Faisal Hospital anticipates getting it by December 2007.
Among patients who have undergone the test, most were found to have incurable conditions. However, others have got chances of getting their conditions put right, Gishoma said.
Some of the patients were referred to other hospitals outside Rwanda, as they have the necessary equipments to treat diabetic blindness.
Countries with such facilities include, Tanzania Moshi, Uganda, and South Africa. After receiving this type of treatment, the blindness stops for good, Gishoma said.
Such tests are carried out by Dr Francis Mutangana of King Faycal Hospital, and the authorities of the association appeals to the relevant authorities to mobilise the patients of diabetes to always visit their facility in order to reduce or even stop the present condition.