Reduced chances of diabetics in Guyana going blind

MINISTRY OF PUBLIC HEALTH – Diabetic patients in Guyana will have a better chance not becoming blind from retinopathy according to Guyana Diabetes Care Project (GDCP) Coordinator Dr Brian Ostrow Wednesday.

With some 18,630 persons (6.25 per cent) of Guyanese diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy (an eye disease caused by the ailment) Ostrow told participants that pregnant and other Guyanese will be screened at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), Eye Care Clinic.

Dr Brian Ostrow

Of the 18,630 figure, some 4,658 of them can become blind from the eye disease said Dr Shilendra Sugrim, GPHC’s Consultant and Ophthalmologist heading the Diabetic Retinopathy Screening and Treatment Programme there.

For this year, 3000 diabetics were screened for retinopathy and 300 cases were referred for laser treatment.

But under the GDCP plan local patients will benefit from laser treatment, a service which was available only at one private hospital. Following the unveiling of the plan at Wednesday’s one-day seminar at Project Dawn, Liliendaal, a hike in awareness is expected which will provide detailed materials on diabetic eye problems and complications among primary health-care workers and the general public.

A manual for diabetic retinopathy (DR) will also be developed and implemented and will be used by health care professionals to help them better under and screen for the diabetes-influenced disease.

Through the Diabetes in Pregnancy (DIP) component, guidelines for diabetes care in pregnancy have also been developed which highlights the importance and methods of screening, treatment and training of diabetes educators. This service is expected to be tested and implemented through universal screening at the GPHC and two associated health centres at Enmore and Campbelville health centres in Regions Three (Essequibo Islands/West Demerara) and Four (Demerara/Mahaica) respectively.

Dr Judy Hung, final year Resident in obstetrics and gynaecology in her presentation said that thus far, some 265 women have been for DIP and 68 are receiving treatment.

“Metformin replaced glyburide as oral treatment and patients are now doing self-monitoring of blood sugars,” Hung said

Other components of the GDCP initiative include: using metformin (a medication used in the diabetes fight) as a first line treatment;

Minister Lawrence talking to participants

developing a way to detect patients with undiagnosed diabetes and supporting the Ministry of Public Health’s (MOPH) outreach activities. Under the plan there will also be support for crafting specific modules of the Guyana Health Information System (GHIS) and the developing appropriate arrangements for project management.

When she spoke, Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence told applauded “all those involved in the project, which, though fledgling in existence, a little less than a year since its inception in June 2016, has impacted significantly on the diabetic front.”

On the issue of the DIP Lawrence noted that there is mounting evidence that poor maternal health increases the risk of diabetes for both mother and children creating “a vicious cycle of susceptibility for this chronic disease for future generations. Once again, educating our mothers becomes crucial; if any significant impact is to be made with gestational diabetes, they must be schooled in eating healthy, in engaging in healthy activities, in approaching the clinic for screening to arrest the disease.”

There is urgent need for extensive training of our health practitioners in all our communities to diagnose and manage diabetes in pregnancy and diabetic retinopathy (and) to be equipped with the tools for screening for risk for diabetic foot ulcers, so that in turn, this can be effectively communicated to all concerned, Minister Lawrence said. 



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