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In Asia-Pacific journal of ophthalmology (Philadelphia, Pa.) ; h5-index 0.0

Diabetic retinopathy (DR), a major cause of blindness in working-age adults, is emerging as a major public health issue worldwide, in particular in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). Traditionally, the management of DR has been on tertiary-level treatment (eg, laser, anti-VEGF injections and surgery) in specialized settings by highly trained ophthalmologists on individual patients. To win the war on DR, a paradigm shift in strategic focus and resources must be made from such tertiary treatment toward primary and secondary prevention, which are broader, more impactful, and cost-effective for the larger population. These include improving education and awareness of risk of DR among people initially diagnosed with diabetes, promoting behavioral modifications such as physical activity and medication adherence for improving glycemic and blood pressure control, setting up systematic screening programs for DR to detect the onset or progression of the disease, and implementing cost-effective, evidence-based policies and guidelines for managing DR. Additionally, there is a need to leverage on novel technology including the application of digital big data to predict people at risk of diabetes and DR, the use of wearable devices and smart phone apps, behavioral techniques including social media for self-management of diabetes, and telemedicine-based DR screening incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) to broaden access to screening in all settings. To turn the tide on the war on DR, we must reframe DR not only as a specific condition that can be managed by ophthalmologists, but fundamentally, as a preventable condition by shifting the weight of strategies from tertiary to secondary and primary battlegrounds.

Wong Tien Y, Sabanayagam Charumathi