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Work begins to tackle blindness caused by diabetes in Pakistan and Bangladesh
Image taken from the Time To See exhibition, for more information visit www.timetosee.org. © Andrew Quilty / The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust

Work begins to tackle blindness caused by diabetes in Pakistan and Bangladesh

The Trust has awarded a grant to the Fred Hollows Foundation to tackle blindness caused by diabetes in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Globally, diabetes has reached epidemic levels, with Bangladesh and Pakistan in the top 10 countries where people are worst affected.

6.1% of the population of Bangladesh have diabetes, with 46% of people affected not even aware that they have the disease. In Pakistan there are approximately 6.9 million people living with diabetes – a figure that is expected to double by 2030.

With diabetes comes a heightened risk of blindness. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when poor control of blood sugar levels, high blood pressure and high lipid levels in the blood damage the blood vessels in the retina. Many people in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy do not have any symptoms and are unaware that they have the condition. However, once symptoms develop the vision lost is often irreversible.

Diabetic retinopathy can be prevented by

  • Early identification of diabetes
  • A controlled diet and healthy lifestyle
  • Regular comprehensive eye examinations
  • Early identification of retinal damage caused by diabetes
  • Receiving treatment, such as laser treatment, to prevent further damage to the eye.

The Fred Hollows Foundation will work with Ministries of Health and health care institutions in two districts in Pakistan and four districtsin Bangladesh to raise public awareness about diabetes so that the condition is identified earlier and timely health management, screening and treatment can take place. They will also work to integrate eye care into existing services supporting people with diabetes.

On the announcement of the work Dr Astrid Bonfield CBE, Chief Executive of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust said,

The Trust’s vision is a Commonwealth free from avoidable blindness. Rates of diabetes are increasing at alarming levels, and it is of great concern that diabetic retinopathy is set to become the world’s leading cause of avoidable blindness. We must act now to halt this escalating problem. As well as by strengthening health systems, we hope to make significant advances towards our mission by increasing public awareness about diabetic retinopathy and the fact that it is completely avoidable with the right care. We’re delighted to be working with the Fred Hollows Foundation and the Ministries of Health in Pakistan and Bangladesh to ensure that no more sight is needlessly lost as a result of this disease.