Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment

The Challenge

  • According to the International Diabetes Federation, in 2012 approximately 371 million people worldwide had diabetes; by 2030 this will increase to 522 million or 1 in 10 adults.
  • An estimated 80% of people with diabetes live in developing countries – the global rise in diabetes is attributable to changing diets, a decline in physical exercise, increasing urbanization and an aging population, among other factors. 
  • Diabetic retinopathy, or vision loss due to poorly controlled diabetes, is a leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide.
  • Diabetic retinopathy occurs in almost 75% of patients with adult onset diabetes within the first fifteen years of diagnosis of their disease. 
  • Early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes and diabetic retinopathy is critical since they can reduce the risk of severe vision loss by more than 90%.
  • There are often no symptoms of diabetic retinopathy in its early stage and most people do not seek care until their vision begins to decline when treatment is less effective. 
  • Current health care systems in these countries are ill-equipped to provide the necessary screening and treatment required to prevent the avoidable vision loss associated with advanced diabetic retinopathy.

HKI Solutions

  • Helen Keller International and our partners have developed an innovative screening and treatment model for diabetic retinopathy to prevent unnecessary vision loss in the developing world through affordable and accessible care.
  • Screening centers capture digital images of the eyes of at-risk diabetes patients that are sent through the internet to experts who can determine if diabetic retinopathy is present and treatable.
  • HKI trains healthcare professionals to improve their knowledge and skills in treating diabetic retinopathy and raises awareness about the disease.
  • HKI is also testing new low-cost cameras that could reduce the cost and expand access to care; and is investigating ways to help patients overcome barriers to treatment.
  • Our diabetic retinopathy pilot programs in Bangladesh and Indonesia – the first of their kind – ensure that all diabetes patients at participating healthcare facilities receive screening for diabetic retinopathy: to date, 25,000 people have been screened, nearly 20% of whom received sight-saving treatment.
  • HKI’s Vice President for Eye Health, Nick Kourgialis, chairs the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness Diabetic Retinopathy Working Group, which advocates for a coordinated global response to this emerging eye disease.