Today is World Sight Day and we would like to take this opportunity to re-emphasise the risks surrounding diabetic retinopathy, a diabetes-related complication that causes visual impairment. Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness. Around 20% of all people living with diabetes in Europe develop diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is caused by prolonged high blood glucose levels. Over time, high sugar glucose levels can weaken and damage the small blood vessels within the retina.
As diabetic retinopathy typically presents no symptoms during the early stages, regular screening is needed to reduce the risk of vision impairment or vision loss. It is essential for people living with diabetes to receive uninterrupted access to affordable screening, treatment, and care throughout their life. We must work together to create health-enabling environments and patient-centered healthcare systems that guarantee equal access to medicines, technologies, and care.
Many cases of diabetic retinopathy could be avoided with regular screening. For example, systematic screening has been in place in the UK for many years and this has greatly improved the health outcomes of people living with diabetes. We must work together to ensure diabetes retinopathy screening programmes are set up in all European countries and that inequalities in access to eye care in Europe are eradicated in order to reduce the risk of preventable blindness.