Buy the IDF Diabetes Atlas 9th Edition 2019 at the IDF Congress 2019 in Busan, Korea

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What is World Sight Day

World Sight Day (WSD) is an international day of awareness, held annually on the second Thursday of October to focus attention on the global issue of eye health. World Sight Day highlights the fact that more than 75% of all blindness and moderate to severe visual impairment (MSVI) is avoidable. This year World Sight Day falls on 10 October 2019 with the theme ‘Vision First’.

Why is World Sight Day important for the diabetes community

  • Every person with diabetes is at risk of going blind. Around a third of people with diabetes develop some form of eye health complication, which if left untreated can have devastating and wide ranging social and economic impacts on them, their families and communities.
  • Currently 145 million people have diabetic retinopathy (DR) and 45 million have vision threatening DR. By 2040, it is estimated that 224 million people will have DR and 70 million will have vision-threatening DR.
  • Almost all vision impairment and blindness from diabetes-related eye disease can be prevented through effective diabetes management, early detection of eye problems through regular eye exams, and timely treatment.
  • However, diabetes-related eye health is frequently absent from mainstream primary diabetes care and left to eye health specialists. Limited awareness that diabetes can cause vision impairment and irreversible blindness, combined with financial and geographical barriers to accessing the required eye health services mean that many people with diabetes do not have adequate access to vital sight-saving services.

What action is needed

The scale of this challenge means we need strong, innovative action and improved collaboration across the health system to bring eye health to the frontline of diabetes care.

We need:

  • The integration of eye health within routine diabetes care by primary health care providers
  • Improved collaboration across the diabetes and eye health sectors
  • Action to foster and support patient-centred care approaches for diabetic eye health.

What you can do about it

This World Sight Day you can call for urgent action from governments, medical associations, service providers and patient organisations to address the growing burden of diabetic eye disease.

You can advocate to practitioners, policy and law makers in three effective ways:

  1. Circulate widely the joint declaration “Strengthening health systems to manage diabetic eye disease: Integrated care for diabetes and eye health” issued by IDF, the International Council of Ophthalmology, the World Council of Optometry and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness
  2. Write a letter to your Minister of Health/Foreign Affairs/Finance/Development to discuss the need to integrate care for diabetes and eye health. Use our template letter (Word) to encourage governments to take action in response to the 2019 UN High Level Meeting on Universal Health Care.
  3. Let your voice be heard on social media calling for integrated care for diabetes and eye health using the hashtags #WorldSightDay #WSD2019 and #VisionFirst. 
  4. Supporting Resources

The World Heart Federation, in partnership with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), has launched a new “roadmap” aimed at reducing the global burden of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in people living with diabetes. The Roadmap on the prevention of cardiovascular disease among people living with diabetes is a key reference document for anyone involved in the planning, organisation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of approaches related to CVD prevention in people living with diabetes. It outlines a vision of an ideal pathway of care, potential roadblocks along this pathway, and proposed solutions, with examples from practice.

Rapid urbanization, unhealthy diets and increasingly sedentary lifestyles have resulted in fast-growing rates of obesity and diabetes, with an estimated 425 million people currently living with diabetes worldwide. Around 90 percent have type 2 diabetes. Alarmingly, the situation is set to deteriorate further in the coming decades, with the total number of people with diabetes predicted to increase to over 600 million by 2045. It is estimated that globally, up to 50 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are unaware of their condition. While diabetes is treatable, even when glucose levels are under control it greatly increases the risk of CVD. People with diabetes are 2 to 3 times more likely to have increased risk of coronary artery disease, stroke, myocardial infarction and angina pectoris compared to those without the condition. Prevention of CVD in people with diabetes is a necessity and strategies predominantly focus on lifestyle management and risk factor interventions.

The Roadmap draws on the expertise of diabetes expert clinicians, researchers, implementation science experts and people with diabetes from around the world. It presents an integrated approach to patient care, involving the patient perspective, healthcare system perspective and health policy perspective.

Laurence Sperling, Chair of the CVD and Diabetes Roadmap Writing Group explains, “We have identified important gaps in the care of people living with diabetes who are a high cardiovascular risk, and focused on priorities and key action areas to close these gaps. We also provide an ‘implementation toolkit’ for successful translation of the Roadmap to national and local initiatives, aiming to ensure that as many people living with diabetes as possible receive optimal preventive care and treatment. Our goal is to demonstrate how using this roadmap can help a broad base of stakeholders begin to tackle the problem and make a longstanding difference.”


Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a complication of diabetes that may be unnoticeable in its early stages, but which can lead to vision impairment and blindness. It affects an estimated one in three people living with diabetes, and is a primary cause of vision loss and blindness in people aged between 20 and 65. 

Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) is a potential complication of DR. It is caused by disruption of the blood-retinal barrier due to long-term hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose), leading to retinal thickening around the fovea. DME currently affects more than 28 million people with diabetes. 

The vast majority (79%) of respondents with diabetes to the Diabetes Retinopathy Barometer Report: Global Findings who had impaired vision due to DR or diabetic macular edema (DME), said their sight problems made everyday activities difficult, and in some cases impossible. These activities included driving, working and cooking or cleaning their home.

DME has unique assessment criteria, since it can present in eyes at all levels of DR. Therefore, early screening and detection is crucial in halting and where possible correcting DME. Since early damage is painless and goes unnoticed by the patient, regular screening is recommended for all people with diabetes.

Health practitioners have reported a need for additional training in the diagnosis, treatment and referral of diabeties-related eye disease. Due to its threat to vision, the clinical signs of DME warrant immediate referral to an ophthalmologist. Therefore, the employment of trained health care professionals to carry out basic screening and make appropriate referrals would be the most efficient use of resources.

In support of those on the frontline of diabetes eye health, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has led a team of experts in the development of the Clinical Practice Recommendations for Managing Diabetic Macular Edema. This is intended to facilitate the work of general practitioners, hospital physicians, and other clinicians working in diabetes-related eye disease management.

The clinical recommendations grew out of a collaborative, evidence-based process and reflect the latest advances in DME management.

IDF believes in the value of face-to-face education and personal exchange. This will again be showcased at the IDF Diabetes Complications Congress 2020 in Lisbon, Portugal on 2-4 July 2020, which will provide opportunities for peer-to-peer interactions with representatives from all sectors of the global diabetes community.

For exhibitors that have joined us at past IDF Congresses or will consider participating for the first time, we firmly believe that the IDF Diabetes Complications Congress 2020 will be beneficial for both you and our delegates.

The congress will be held at the Centro de Congressos de Lisboa CCL, located on the river Tagus and in the historical area of Belem. This comfortable and pleasant venue offers spacious auditoriums, meeting facilities and an exhibition space, all conveniently located and within easy reach.

The IDF 2020 programme will feature four streams covering diabetes-related complications:

  • Head & brain
  • Circulation & heart
  • Liver & kidney
  • Foot

A fifth stream will focus on education and technology to support healthcare professionals in their daily work.

All relevant statistics to help you better understand the IDF Congress audience and programme is available in our congress library.

We look forward to welcoming you to the IDF Diabetes Complications Congress 2020 in Lisbon, Portugal.

For additional information and queries, please contact:
Celina Renner
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
T +32 2 543 16 32

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