Why Vision Loss Due To Diabetes Is A Pressing Health Issue
Prevention and Treatment New global study reveals adults with diabetes are at an unnecessary risk of vision loss.
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orldwide, the prevention of unnecessary vision loss associated with diabetes has a particular urgency surrounding it. The risk of blindness due to untreated diabetic retinopathy (DR) and diabetic macular edema (DME) is serious. With DR alone, approximately one in three adults with diabetes is affected by the condition — a staggering 93 million people worldwide.
Sobering facts like these inspired this year’s theme for World Diabetes Day (November 14). “The theme ‘Eyes on Diabetes,’ reflects how critical we believe the role of eye health to be within diabetes management,” says Dr. David Cavan, MD, Director of Policy & Programmes, International Diabetes Federation.
Global DR Barometer Report sheds light on preventable vision loss
More findings are contained in the DR Barometer Report, a landmark study of nearly 7,000 adults with diabetes and health care professionals from 41 countries. It raises serious concerns about the critical need for clear patient care pathways and responsive health systems to address preventable vision loss.
In Canada alone, 11 million people are currently living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to a recent update to The Diabetes Charter for Canada, created by the Canadian Diabetes Associations.
According to Dr. Jane Barratt, Secretary General, International Federation on Ageing, “We are currently experiencing one of the most important demographic upheavals of our time in terms of our global population aging, and the impact of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes is rising at a rapid rate.”
The high cost of vision loss
Vision loss touches lives on a personal, social and economic basis, causing increased rates of unemployment, divorce, and clinical depression. As Peter Ackland, Chief Executive Officer of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), explains: “Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in the working-age population of most developed countries, and the sight loss caused by this condition can have a profound impact on both an individual’s quality of life and their ability to work.”
Clearly, now is the time for those with diabetes, their families, and health care professionals to take action — but how? One important step is to have more discussions about vision loss. Findings within the DR Barometer Study estimate one quarter of people with diabetes are not talking about potential eye complications with their health care providers. Despite the fact that the risk of vision loss is twice as high as other diabetes complications, such as stroke and cardiovascular disease, it is not always addressed.
Good news on prevention
“DR and DME can be successfully managed with the right screening and treatment,” says Mr. Ackland. “However, many people with diabetes are being placed at unnecessary risk of vision loss due to barriers within the referral system and patient care pathway.”
The other critical part of the prevention picture is linked to issues with health care systems. Globally, there is a worrying lack of guidelines for health care professionals. The DR Barometer Study reveals 50 percent of providers surveyed did not have written protocols for the detection and management of diabetes-related vision issues. With late diagnosis cited as the greatest barrier to improving outcomes for those with the disease, this finding is especially concerning.
Individuals and communities should not be complacent while vision loss due to diabetes threatens quality of life. Talk to your health care professional and get the facts about early detection and treatment options before sight
For more information on the DR Barometer Report and its findings, which will soon include Canada-specific data, please visit drbarometer.com. You can learn more about the importance of vision health at eye-see-you.ca