With approximately 425 million adults living with diabetes, a number that will rise to 629 million by 2045, global healthcare is facing a pandemic. 30 to 40% of this population will develop some form of diabetic eye disease and is at risk of going blind.
“There’s an urgent need to diagnose and treat patients in an early stage of the disease,” says Professor Sehnaz Karadeniz, M.D., ophthalmologist and Regional Chair of International Diabetes Federation European Region. Diabetic eye disease is currently one of the leading causes of preventable blindness in the working population worldwide. “Unfortunately, the number of people with diabetes globally is still growing exponentially. Knowing that many patients still remain undiagnosed, it’s very obvious that the problem is huge,” explains Prof. Karadeniz.
At IDF and IDF Europe, we embrace all efforts to tackle diabetes and related vision loss across the globe: innovative research, clinical trials but also initiatives to create more awareness. The pharma industry, biotech companies like Oxurion, patient advocacy organizations … we should all join forces to fight the problem.
Vision loss affects life quality
Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a common and most feared complication of diabetes, because it leads to vision loss and – in a severe stage – even blindness. The condition occurs when high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels in the retina, causing them to swell and leak or even close. The disease affects roughly 145 million people worldwide. DR also can lead to diabetic macular edema (DME), which is caused by an accumulation of fluid in the macula due to leaking blood vessels. This condition also leads to progressive vision loss and this greatly affects patients’ quality of life. “They have problems with everyday activities, like reading, driving the car, cooking or cleaning,” says Prof. Karadeniz.
“Many of them only get diagnosed in a late and severe stage of the disease. A lot of people living with diabetes are not even aware that they have the disease. Related conditions like diabetic retinopathy develop gradually, so people with diabetes may initially not be aware of any changes in their vision. They only go to an ophthalmologist when their sight is already affected by diabetic eye disease. At that point, our primary target is to try to preserve their remaining vision,” she says.
Prof. Karadeniz stresses that it’s essential to create more awareness about diabetes and the conditions related to it. “At IDF we focus on promoting diabetes care, prevention and cure worldwide. There are a number of factors that influence the development of type 2 diabetes, related to lifestyle, physical activity and a healthy diet. That is why we give recommendations for a healthy diet, for example.”
“It’s crucial that we screen people who get diagnosed with diabetes type 1 or type 2 on a regular basis, to detect complications like diabetic retinopathy in an early stage.”
The current standard of care to preserve vision in people with diabetic eye disease includes anti-VEGF injections or laser therapy, besides good metabolic control. “Both are very effective, but the burden of treatment is quite high: with anti-VEGF for example, patients need to undergo repeated injections in the eye. Also, some people with diabetes may not respond well to this therapy so we need alternatives.”
“That is why we are closely monitoring all clinical trials and promising developments in that area. Novel therapies with improved efficacy or lowering the burden of treatment would certainly benefit people with diabetes.”
About Professor Sehnaz Karadeniz
For the past 20 years, ophthalmologist Sehnaz Karadeniz, M.D., has been actively involved in the field of diabetes in a series of medical, scientific and social projects at national and international levels. She teaches at the Ophthalmology Department of the Medical Faculty of Istanbul Science University and also works as an ophthalmologist at the Ophthalmology Deptartment of the Istanbul Florence Nightingale Hospital.
he is IDF Europe Regional Chair and the Founding Member and Member of the Board of Trustees of the Turkish Diabetes Foundation (TURKDIAB) that was established in 1996. Since then, she has been actively involved in the social and scientific activities of the Foundation, and also has been voluntarily coordinating its international relations since 2003. In addition, she coordinates the DIABLIVA project of the Turkish Diabetes Foundation, an initiative that provides support for Turkish immigrants with diabetes. From 2004-2007, Dr. Karadeniz served as President of the Living with Diabetes Association, a nationwide patients’ organization, and from 2008-2014, as Board Member responsible for Association development.
She joined the board of the International Diabetes Federation European Region (IDF Europe) in 2007, and has been the Chair of the IDF European Region since December 2015. She is also an EASD Council Member for the 2014-2017 term.
About the International Diabetes Federation and IDF Europe
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is an umbrella organization of over 240 national diabetes associations in 168 countries and territories. It represents the interests of the growing number of people with diabetes and those at risk. The Federation has been leading the global diabetes community since 1950. IDF’s mission is to promote diabetes care, prevention and a cure worldwide. IDF is engaged in action to tackle diabetes from the local to the global level ― from programs at community level to worldwide awareness and advocacy initiatives.
The International Diabetes Federation is divided into seven regions, with the aim of strengthening the work of national diabetes associations and enhancing the collaboration between them. IDF Europe is the European chapter of IDF, representing 69 national diabetes organisations in 44 countries across Europe
The Federation’s activities aim to influence policy, increase public awareness and encourage health improvement, promote the exchange of high-quality information about diabetes, and provide education for people with diabetes and their healthcare providers. IDF is associated with the Department of Public Information of the United Nations and is in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO).