Diabetes is a rapidly escalating problem in middle and low-income countries.
Every five seconds a person is diagnosed with diabetes, and every 10 seconds someone dies of it. Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes and is the world’s leading cause of blindness in the working age population. 
What is diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that affects the back of the eye. When someone has high and varying blood sugar levels, the blood vessels in the retina can become irreversibly damaged. Diabetes-related eye complications are common. If left untreated, they lead to deterioration of vision and ultimately blindness.
Who suffers from it?
Everyone who has diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.
Can diabetic retinopathy be prevented?
Diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness, yet in most cases blindness is largely avoidable. This can be achieved with effective diabetes management, regular eye screening, and timely treatment.
Can it be treated?
People with diabetes should have an eye examination at the time their diabetes is diagnosed. This should be followed by regular comprehensive eye examinations and treatment when required. Early detection of sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy is the most important and cost-effective way to enable effective and timely treatment and for preventing blindness.
The prevalence of diabetic retinopathy in the Pacific
In the Pacific, diabetic retinopathy is now starting to rank among the leading causes of visual impairment, overloading already stretched eye care services. Although uncommon a generation ago in most Pacific populations maintaining a traditional lifestyle, and especially rare in Melanesian populations, the prevalence of diabetes has increased dramatically in recent years.
Tackling diabetic retinopathy
Tackling diabetic retinopathy is much more complicated than cataract or refractive error. We recognise these challenges and believe the scale of the diabetes problem requires a coordinated, government-led approach. We support comprehensive diabetic retinopathy services across the Pacific region; provide diabetes eye care training at the Pacific Eye Institute in Fiji; and raise awareness of diabetic retinopathy amongst the public and the health workforce in the Pacific.
 International Diabetes Federation. IDF Diabetes Atlas, 8th edn. Brussels, Belgium:
International Diabetes Federation, 2017. http://www.diabetesatlas.org
Disclaimer: the content on this page is not intended to be medical advice. For medical advice, please contact your local health professional.