Diabetic blindness a growing risk in developing countries

Diabetic retinopathy is likely to emerge as a key topic for discussion at an international medical forum in Australia in December.

Urgent action is needed to help people avoid becoming blind from diabetic retinopathy.“Medical experts say that by 2035, diabetes could become the leading cause of blindness,” according to the CEO of The Fred Hollows Foundation Brian Doolan.

Doolan says 177 million people worldwide could be at risk, many whom have poor access to eye health services. Diabetic retinopathy is already the highest cause of blindness among working age adults.

“What this means is that every second, 18 people living with diabetes will need their eyes screened for blindness,” he says.

“Urgent action is needed to help people avoid blindness from diabetic retinopathy through access to a sight-saving annual eye examination and better control of their diabetes and blood pressure.”

More than 20,000 delegates are expected to attend the World Diabetes Congress in Melbourne from December 2-6.

People at risk from diabetic retinopathy – when the blood vessels inside the retina are damaged – are those with poorly managed diabetes or high blood sugar levels and high blood pressure, particularly if they also have kidney disease.

The condition causes blurred or distorted vision that makes it difficult to work and go about daily life and can lead to blindness.

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Fred Hollows in Vietnam in 1992. Photo: Michael Amendolia

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