Diabetes is one of the fastest growing non-communicable diseases in the US. According to a 2017 report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the growth rate of diabetes remains constant, and the disease continues to present an important healthcare burden. It is an important public health concern not only because of the sizeable proportion of cases that go undiagnosed, but also because of the complications that arise in association with the disease.
One such complication is diabetic macular edema (DME), the leading cause of blindness in diabetic patients. DME occurs in diabetic patients when there is abnormal leakage from damaged blood vessels and accumulation of fluid in the macula, an area in the center of the retina. The occurrence of this condition is highly frequent in diabetics and is a complication of diabetic retinopathy, which is defined as a retinal thickening involving or approaching the center of the macula.
GlobalData epidemiologists forecast the burden of DME to increase over the next decade, as the prevalence of diabetes is expected to rise. Given the high use of healthcare resources and costs accumulated by DME, the condition poses a significant burden on healthcare systems. The social and economic burdens of DME mainly result from the loss of work days for patients, lost productivity for patients’ employers, and the difficulties experienced by family members attending to those who are affected.
The aging of the global population signals an increase in the burden of the disease. Vision loss caused by DME increases with the severity of the condition, with blindness being the worst manifestation. As DME occurs frequently in diabetic patients and the early stages of the condition do not usually present with symptoms, eye screening in individuals with diabetes will be critical in preserving vision over the next decade.
Given recent treatment advances in reducing vision loss and preserving vision in DME, it is imperative that all diabetes patients receive early screening; this recommendation is even more important for individuals with poor blood sugar control and high blood pressure, as these factors can increase the risk of DME.