Diabetes Eye Healthcare Is at Risk Due to COVID-19

August 13, 2020

 

The Coronavirus has impacted the lives of almost everyone in the world and especially those living with diabetes as the disease has been identified as a risk factor for severe symptoms of COVID-19. Indeed, recent US studies have revealed that nearly 40% of COVID-19 victims had diabetes and that half of the people aged under 65 who died with coronavirus had diabetes.

 

The coronavirus crisis has also in many cases severely impacted routine treatment and care of people with diabetes. A recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO) has shown the partial or complete interruption of health services for people with non-communicative diseases, including a 49% slash in diabetes care. In more than 90% of countries, healthcare workers have been partially or fully reassigned to frontline pandemic duties. Restrictions related to the coronavirus lockdown also resulted in the cancelation of many regular health appointments, including diabetic eye screening.

 

The majority of the over 460 million people living with diabetes around the world are at risk of developing diabetes-related eye disease that could lead to blindness. But with early diagnosis and prompt treatment, serious eye damage can be prevented. This is why the American Diabetes Association is launching a new multiyear initiative designed to raise awareness and suggest actions for those at risk of developing sight-threatening diabetes-related eye disease.

 

Regular eye screening of people living with diabetes is vital. The purpose of the routine appointment is to look for signs of diabetic retinopathy – a disease that affects the fine blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye. Diabetic retinal screening is different from most other types of screening appointments as its purpose is to prevent the development of complications in patients who already have diabetes, while most other types of screening programmes aim to detect the disease in a healthy population.

 

Encouraging findings of the survey were that alternative strategies have been established in many countries to support the people at highest risk to continue receiving treatment for non-communicative diseases, with many adopting telemedicine and digital health solutions. These solutions include the clinically-validated RetinaRisk app, which is uniquely positioned to raise awareness about diabetic retinopathy risk and the importance of early detection.

 

The RetinaRisk app empowers people with diabetes to assess and monitor their individualized risk of developing sight-threatening eye disease. The forthcoming RetinaRisk API solution can also serve healthcare providers by identifying high-risk patients who need immediate medical attention and recommend appropriate eye screening interval, based on the individual’s risk score.  Our clinical and real-life studies have demonstrated that risk profiling increases the screening frequency of high-risk patients, while low-risk patients are spared from unnecessary clinical visits, without compromising clinical safety.

 

The RetinaRisk telemedicine solution offers a personalized approach to ensure that the right persons receives the right care at the right time in an efficient and cost-effective way. RetinaRisk can play a significant role in streamlining eye screening programs during COVID-19 times and dealing with the backlog when life gets back to normal and ensuring that those most at risk receive the treatment needed.

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