Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults.
There are now more than 400 million people with diabetes worldwide, writes Einar Stefánsson in Ophthalmology Times, and the number will probably exceed 600 million by 2030.
Stefánsson, chair of the ophthalmology department at the University of Iceland, says the current global epidemic of diabetes "probably exceeds any previous epidemic in the history of mankind."
He notes that in China alone, there are now more diabetic patients than were in the entire world when diabetic eye screening and preventive care for diabetic eye disease started in the 1980s.
After 20 years with type 2 diabetes, roughly 66 percent of patients develop retinopathy, Stefánsson writes, and about 33 percent develop sight-threatening retinopathy.
He expects that one-third of the more than 400 million people who now have diabetes will develop diabetic macular edema or proliferative diabetic retinopathy within the next 20 years.
Since most countries do not provide eye screening, it will be a huge challenge to prevent this looming health crisis.
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