Health officials wants to ensure that people with diabetes do not lose their eyesight.
The Ministry of Health & Wellness launched the newly implemented Diabetic Retinopathy Program in Primary Health Care during a ceremony held on Thursday February 8th at the Vieux Fort Wellness Centre.
The program is being funded by the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust together with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine as well as Firmley Park Hospital, according to Health minister, Senator Mary Isaac.
It aims to provide laser treatment to diabetic patients with vision problems. Diabetic Retinopathy is the most common cause of sight loss in the working age population.
There are approximately 12,000 patients with diabetes in St Lucia. Roughly 1,200 of them are experiencing vision threatening diabetic retinopathy.
Dr. Covadonga Bascaran, Technical Consultant for the Caribbean Retinopathy Program, appealed to patients with diabetes to come forward for eye screening. She said early detection is of paramount importance.
“We need to see every healthy eye of a diabetic in the island in order to prevent those that are going to become blind in time. So the challenge to come, is to make sure that patients that have no symptoms come and get their photographs taken. At the beginning we will see a surge of patients that already have the symptoms, they will be the first ones to come for the photograph because they already have a problem and they think it’s a solution but it’s likely some of them will be too late, so spreading the word to patients that have no problems in their eyes come to take their photographs is what we really between now and 10 years’ time will make a big difference in the prevalence of blindness due to diabetes in the island”.
Saint Lucia is one of four countries to benefit from this program. The Diabetic Retinopathy Program will be implemented over a four year period.
Whilst addressing the gathering, Minister for Health & Wellness Sen. Hon. Mary Isaac took the opportunity to give an enthusiastic ovation to the donors for their support.
“I am convinced this program, the screening and laser treatment will inevitably play an important role in reducing the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy in Saint Lucia. We can now detect it and treat it before it’s too late for an intervention. At the Ministry of Health & Wellness prevention is our focus in the management of chronic non-communicable diseases,” Isaac said.
Ministry officials are encouraging individuals to bring a friend, colleague, or family member or just tell a friend to tell a friend to get screened and take advantage of this free service.
St. Lucia has a diabetes prevalence rate of 14.6 percent.