Background: The risk of Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) to sight can be greatly reduced by good blood glucose
and blood pressure control, effective screening and laser treatment. Diabetic retinopathy remains
asymptomatic in its early stages. Substantial barriers to screening and achieving regular eye examinations
for people with diabetes include the belief that ‘nothing is wrong with my eyes’, not being told of the need
for eye examinations and being too busy.
Objectives: To determine the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy, to describe the relationship between
diabetic retinopathy and the various risk factors and to identify the barriers to uptake of screening for
diabetic retinopathy in diabetic patients at Embu Provincial General Hospital, Central Kenya.
Study design: Cross sectional hospital based survey.
Subjects: Two hundred and fifty three type II Diabetics and type I diabetic patients aged twelve years and
above attending the diabetic clinic.
Results: The overall prevalence of Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) was 41%. Moderate Non Proliferative Diabetic
Retinopathy (NPDR) was the most prevalent grade of DR (20%). Vision threatening DR (Proliferative
Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR) and macular oedema) was found in 21 (8.3%) patients. Most of the patients
(74%) had hypertension. Duration of diabetes and systolic blood pressure had a significant association
with DR (p< 0.05). Fasting Blood Sugar (FBS), mode of treatment and age were not significant. Only 29%
of the patients had prior eye examination, with majority (84%) citing lack of awareness as the main
Conclusion: The prevalence of DR was high. Most of the patients had not had prior eye examination and
were not aware of the need or the importance of the eye examination.
Recommendation: Reinforce the existing screening programmes through education and promotion and
provision of laser treatment for blinding diabetic retinopathy.
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