November marks Diabetes Awareness Month and the Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS) wants to educate Canadians on one of the various complications that are associated with diabetes, specifically diabetic retinopathy (DR), an eye disease that can lead to vision loss. According to recent data, the number of adults living with diabetes worldwide is projected to soar to a staggering 642 million by 2040, underscoring the urgent need for improved diagnosis and management of DR.

“If you have diabetes, early detection of diabetic retinopathy is the best protection against loss of vision,” says Dr. Phil Hooper, president of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society. “Nearly 60 per cent of patients with type 2 diabetes (T2D) in Canada will develop DR within two decades of diagnosis. Therefore, the key to prevention is annual screening for early detection and intervening when necessary.”

Diabetic retinopathy produces few symptoms until serious complications emerge, which can lead to severe vision loss or even blindness. For this reason, just testing visual acuity during an eye examination does not detect disease. Direct retinal examination by a trained professional, or where this is not possible then systematic evaluation of retinal photographs, is necessary to detect asymptomatic disease when it is most treatable. To reduce the risk of DR, people with diabetes should regularly take the following actions:

  • Keep blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol within the specified target ranges.
  • Book a comprehensive eye exam every year, as early detection is the best way to prevent vision loss.
  • Follow the specified diabetes regime set by your healthcare team, and discuss the barriers that exist to find the best way to take care for yourself.

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that develops when the blood vessels in the retina become damaged due to diabetes. The different stages and types of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Nonproliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR): This early stage may lead to retinal swelling, retinal deposits, and minor blood vessel leakage in the retina.
  • Macular Edema: This condition refers to the swelling of the macula, the central area of the retina responsible for sharp, detailed vision, due to fluid leakage from retinal blood vessels. It is the most common cause of visual impairment in diabetes.
  • Macular Ischemia: Vision blurs as small blood vessels in the retina close, depriving the macula of adequate blood supply to function correctly.
  • Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy: In this severe stage, abnormal blood vessels grow from the surface of the retina, potentially leading to bleeding, vision obstruction, scar tissue formation, and retinal detachment.

The economic burden of diabetes care in Canada is predicted to reach $5 billion by 2025, with $228 million allocated to indirect costs. To address this challenge, it is imperative to enhance the efficiency of diabetes care and establish patient-centered, comprehensive models for diabetes management.

To learn more about the risk factors, diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy, visit

About Canadian Ophthalmological Society

The Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS) is the national, recognized authority on eye and vision care in Canada. As eye physicians and surgeons, we are committed to assuring the provision of optimal medical and surgical eye care for all Canadians by promoting excellence in ophthalmology and by providing services to support our members in practice. Our membership includes over 900 ophthalmologists and 200 ophthalmology residents. We work collaboratively with government, other national and international specialty societies, our academic communities (ACUPO), our provincial partners and affiliates and other eye care professionals and patient groups to advocate for health policy in Canada in the area of eye and vision health. The COS is an accredited, award-winning provider of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) through the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) and is an affiliate of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). For more information, visit

SOURCE Canadian Ophthalmological Society

For further information: Bojana Duric,, BlueSky Communications