The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has estimated1 that globally as many as 193 million people, or close to half of all adults living with diabetes in 2015, are unaware of their disease. Most of these cases are type 2 diabetes.  The earlier a person is diagnosed, the earlier treatment can be initiated in order to reduce the risk of harmful and costly complications. A person with type 2 diabetes can live for several years without showing any symptoms, during which time high blood glucose is silently damaging the body. There is therefore an urgent need to screen, diagnose and provide appropriate treatment to people with diabetes. This World Diabetes Day2, IDF is highlighting the feasible and cost-effective solutions that exist to help identify people with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes and those at risk of developing it in the future.

The key goal of management of type 2 diabetes is to help people with the condition to achieve good diabetes control. This improves current wellbeing and minimises the risk of future complications that result from uncontrolled diabetes. People with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes are at particular risk from developing complications, as by definition, their diabetes is uncontrolled and can be so for many years. Tragically, it is not uncommon for people to be first diagnosed with diabetes after presenting with vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy, or a neuropathic foot wound that may require amputation. Thus there is a race against time to identify those with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes, and to provide lifestyle advice and medication to get it under control, before such complications arise.

The increased prevalence of diabetes means that more and more people are also developing diabetes complications, such as diabetic retinopathy. Every person living with diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, with over one third of people with diabetes developing diabetic retinopathy during their lifetime. This can lead to blindness if untreated. The risk of diabetic retinopathy is greater in those people who have been living with diabetes for a longer time, as well as those with high blood glucose and blood pressure levels. It is important that health practitioners and people with diabetes are aware of the potential of developing diabetic retinopathy and the steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of visual impairment.

Blindness from diabetic retinopathy is largely avoidable but it does require greater awareness of the need for early detection and timely treatment. According to the findings of the Diabetic Retinopathy Barometer Project, an initiative of IDF in collaboration with the International Federation on Aging and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, over half of all health professionals surveyed in 40 countries reported that they did not use a guide or protocol to improve diabetic eye health. All people with diabetes should be screened for diabetic retinopathy every one to two years and it is important that screening for diabetes complications be integrated into ongoing care for people living with diabetes. Eyes on diabetes this World Diabetes Day.

References

1. IDF Diabetes Atlas Seventh Edition 2015, International Diabetes Federation, www.diabetesatlas.org

2. www.worlddiabetesday.org