Dubai: One in five people were not aware that their eyes were damaged due to complications from diabetes, a senior doctor said.

Joslin Diabetes Centre medical director Dr Hamed Farooqi said screening that included taking pictures of the back of the eye showed retinal damage in about 18.9 per cent patients who dropped into the centre over a three-month period.

Speaking on the medical centre's first anniversary, the director said eye damage could be controlled but it depended on the stage at which it was caught.

"If it is in the early stages it can be controlled by blood sugar levels," he said.

"If it is in a later stage intervention through laser can be done."

He said there is no research to show why diabetes is so high in the UAE.

"But until then we have to catch the disease in people early," Dr Farooqi said.

"Having diabetes does not mean that you are doomed," he said.

"But the complications (from the disease) affect the micro vessels in the kidney, eyes, and feet, down the line."

Dr Farooqi said the centre will offer public lectures on diabetes care and management next month.

Staff also visit government offices, companies, colleges and universities to conduct free blood screening.

"During the past year the centre recorded more than 15, 588 patient visits," Dr Farooqi said.

The centre was also planning a paediatric division.

Unique approach

Dubai Health Authority Director General Qadi Saeed Al Murooshid said the centre was unique in its approach to managing diabetes.

Dr Farooqi said the centre aimed to provide specialised medical services to the people living and working in Dubai.

"All it takes is a healthy diet and exercising 30 minutes every day," he said.

The centre works to help people to manage their diabetes and also to prevent further cases.

Statistics say about 20 per cent of the UAE population suffers from diabetes, making it the nation with the second-largest incidence in the world after Nauru, a tiny Pacific island nation.