Saving sight in Latin America and the Caribbean since 1982

World Diabetes Day: the hidden risk of blindness

14th November is World Diabetes Day and we’re shining a spotlight on the role that the Orbis family is playing in tackling one of the fastest growing causes of avoidable blindness – diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetes is considered the fastest growing health crisis of our time with the number of adults suffering from diabetes set to jump from 425 million to 522 million by 2030. Shockingly - and perhaps most importantly - around 50% of sufferers remain undiagnosed.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) affects an estimated one-third of people with diabetes and is the leading cause of blindness and vision loss in adults between 35-50.

In fact, each person living with diabetes is at risk of developing DR and may potentially go blind over time as excessive blood sugar levels can cause irreversible damage to vessels in the retina.

While DR cannot be fully cured, effective treatments have been established that preserve vision and dramatically reduce the risk of vision loss. These treatments include laser treatments and vitrectomy surgery.

What We're Doing

As a way to combat this growing threat, we’re teaming up with governments, NGO’s and key health partners in high risk countries to build the infrastructure needed for early detection of DR and integrate eye screenings into the overall care for people living with diabetes.

Alongside our partners, we've been able to:

  • Establish screening services for children in remote areas of Bangladesh to ensure early detection of eye problems as a result of diabetes.
  • Implement quality diabetic care for patients in rural China by providing comprehensive training for eye professionals. We’re collaborating with the Chinese Ministry of Health to address vision loss from diabetes.
  • Train eye health professionals in Peru to improve DR screenings, referrals and treatments.
  • Work in partnership with other NGO's in Vietnam to improve access to eye health services – including screenings for diabetic patients.
A man is screened for diabetic retinopathy during Flying Eye Hospital project in Barbados

Early detection can prevent blindness from diabetic retinopathy in 98% of cases

A Global Strategy

Together with leading non-government agencies across the diabetes and eye care sectors, we've helped build a global diabetic retinopathy strategy. ‘A Global Compendium on Good Practice: Integrated Care for Diabetes and Eye Health’ highlights several of our proven best-practice approaches taken to curb this rising epidemic – including three successful Orbis projects. Read more below.

The Need

With current predictions suggesting that by 2040 642 million adults will be living with diabetes and 224 million will have some form of diabetic retinopathy. There is still so much more that needs to be done to tackle this growing threat.

A 'business as usual approach' will simply not work. We must go beyond doing more of the same isolated interventions and create a collective and integrated approach.

With the Global Strategy in place we have the know-how to help millions of people build a brighter future - but we need your support to make this a reality.

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