Preventable Blindness within the Diabetic Patient Population

preventable blindness

Illness and disease can be a burden personally, economically, and medically. 

While many diseases are unavoidable, there are some that are avoidable from the very beginning. That is, if proper early detection methods are in place and treatment is administered.

Preventable blindness is a medical issue that is incredibly debilitating when in full effect, yet could potentially be a whole non-issue if the onset of the malady is avoided altogether by taking appropriate precautionary measures.

So what actually causes preventable blindness, how much of blindness is preventable, and how can we actually seek to prevent preventable blindness once and for all?


What is Preventable Blindness?

Preventable blindness is blindness brought on by a disease that could have been prevented via early diagnosis and treatment. But because it went undetected for too long, the disease worsened and ultimately caused irreversible blindness.

Some of the most common causes of preventable blindness include cataracts, uncorrected refractive errors, macular edema, trachoma, eye cancer, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. These are all diseases that can and should be treated and cause minimal negative effects to a patient while also preventing potential vision loss.


Economic Impacts of Blindness

The rule of thumb is the healthier the human population is, the better it is for the economy. Preventable blindness is an area of vision impairment that could be nearly eradicated and lift a huge financial burden off of the global economy. Vision impairment from uncorrected myopia and presbyopia alone account for $244 billion USD and $25.4 billion USD, respectively.

Therefore the push to end preventable blindness is not just to increase and improve patient care, but also to alleviate some of the financial stress that comes from untreated illnesses.


What Percentage of Blindness is Preventable?

Unbelievably, around 90% of all blindness worldwide is preventable. Much of that percentage is due to the lack of eye care availability in less-developed countries, where things like cataracts and glaucoma go completely untreated. 

In developed countries, the more common causes of preventable blindness are diseases that do not show symptoms in their earliest stages, when the blindness they cause would be preventable. One of these diseases is called ‘diabetic retinopathy’. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that occurs when high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels in the retina. The affected blood vessels can sometimes swell and leak, or they can close, which causes a blockage and prevents blood from passing through.


Most Common Cause of Preventable Blindness

The most common cause of preventable blindness in working-age adults, or adults aged 15-64, is diabetic retinopathy. About one in three diabetic people are living with some stage of diabetic retinopathy and about one in ten of those individuals will develop an eye-threatening disease over their lifetime because of it.

And the prevalence of diabetes is only predicted to rise. In 2019, there were 463 million people living with diabetes. In 2045, there will be an estimated 700 million. 

Managing diabetic retinopathy for a burgeoning diabetic population then becomes a dire necessity for ending preventable blindness. The good news is that the treatment for diabetic retinopathy is straightforward and effective. Unfortunately, in it’s early stages, the disease is rarely identified in time to save a patient’s vision.


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Why Diabetic Retinopathy Continues to Cause Preventable Blindness

But why do these diseases like diabetic retinopathy so often progress past the point of no return? There are many reasons, and all of them have to do with the amount of access a patient has to the tools needed to get regular examinations.

When patients go into a primary care provider to get a yearly exam, they sometimes get referred to specialists if they have a special condition. For diabetic patients, that referral is usually to an opthalmologist or retina specialist, as diabetic patients are at significant risk for diabetic retinopathy.

However these very important retinal exams are often missed for a variety of reasons.  

Oftentimes, accessibility is the issue. There are many diabetc patients who do not live anywhere near an opthalmologist/retina specialist, and they don’t have the means to get to an appointment farther away.


preventable blindness


Referring back to the staggering statistics of the prevalence of preventable blindness, imagine the effects on the economy and the health of the human population if just one of the causes of preventable blindness was eliminated.

The good news is that just this very thing is occurring: modern healthcare technology is paving the way for the eradication of preventable blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy.

IRIS,  (Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems), is changing the face of patient care today. With revolutionary teleretinal image-enhancing technology, IRIS has built its foundation on bringing diagnostic methods straight to patients in order to reduce the number of cases of preventable blindness.

IRIS works with its clients to decide on a fundus camera that works best for their specific needs, train their staff to capture images, and educate them on program best practices, making this workflow a win-win for the healthcare organization. Not to mention, once a healthcare organization’s employees are trained to properly use the software and equipment, performing these vital retinal screenings is easy and does not create significant additional work for camera operators. 

After the image is captured in-office, our image-enhancement technology is automatically applied, illuminating the vasculature and potential pathology for the grading physician. With IRIS, clients experience an average gradeability rate of 95% as opposed to other solutions where gradeability is typically 80-85%. 

After a fundus image is captured and the IRIS proprietary image enhancement algorithm is applied, the photo gets sent through the cloud to the IRIS Reading Center, where a group of 125+ board-certified retina specialists and ophthalmologists examine the photo.

fundus photography

Before IRIS Image Enhancement

fundus photography

After IRIS Image Enhancement

With this technology in the hands of health care organizations all over the US, IRIS hopes to do its part in ending preventable blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy.

Does your organization want to help fight the battle against preventable blindness? Get in touch with us today for a free demo.


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