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Warning signs of diabetes in your eyes

World Diabetes Day on the 14 November is a time to bring awareness to the condition and its complications while also highlighting latest medical advancements and good practices.  Diabetes is known to be a major cause of disability and illness around the world, with devastating social and economic consequences for the individuals as well as society. Diabetic retinopathy (DR) – a complication of diabetes caused by damage to blood vessels in retina – can lead to vision loss and blindness. The good news is that over 50% of type 2 diabetes is preventable with early detection of the risk and lifestyle improvements.  Presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Spain this year was a study that demonstrated the power of science and humanity. Researchers from the Medical School at the University of Exeter used a newly developed biomicroscope to measure the autofluorescence in eyes which reflects the level of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). High levels of AGEs, detected among people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, can contribute to several diseases, including visual complications of diabetes such as retinopathy.   Being able to predict a person’s risk of developing diabetes also provides an opportunity to intervene and prevent long-term consequences. "Lens autofluorescence could be a robust marker of long-term diabetes control predicting future complication risks,” said Dr Mitra Tavakoli, lead author of the study. Blindness due to diabetic retinopathy has serious and life altering consequences to a person’s role and responsibilities as well as identity in family and society. Although early screening and management has been shown to avoid major damage occurs in eyes, individuals diagnosed with diabetes often do not have regular and routine eye exams.   Education, awareness and self management are several key principles for those with diabetes and the associated vision complications. The IFA together with IDF, IAPB and the Vision Academy are working to shape and influence policy to improve the vision health of people with diabetes through the DR Barometer Community. The Community is a collaborative network that brings together health care professionals, patient advocates, individuals living with diabetes and experts from around the world. Join the DR Barometer Community today and contact IFA expert Prof. Hans-Peter Hammes, who is recognized globally as preeminent in the treatment of diabetes and its complications.

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International Inspiration for Ageing Populations

Population ageing is accelerating around the world; however, every country is ageing at a different pace. In France, it took 115 years for the number of people aged 65 and older to increase from 7 to 14% of the national population, whereas in Japan, this change in demographic took only 26 years. By mid-century, half of the global population aged 60 and older will be in Asia, with the highest rates in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. A recent Forbes article outlines that with this demographic change comes great possibilities for Asia. Increasing longevity can drive growth for companies to target innovations to the ageing population, and inter-generational workforces will drive the business of the future. There is however a cautionary note: a longer life lived in poor health is not a reward to the individual or society.Many countries are turning their sights to certain countries in Asia where policy innovations and technology create an enabling environment for an ageing population. Japan, for example, incentives employers that retain older workers; South Korea has invested in smartphone and communication products to optimize engagement for older people; and some tertiary institutions in China offer older people skills and networking opportunities.  Contact IFA Expert Prof Rintaro Mori, Regional Advisor on Population Ageing and Sustainable Development, UNFPA Asia-Pacific Office, for the latest successful age-focused policies and practices in Asia. The Forbes article notes that government officials in Asia, and leaders in health and business are inspired and connected to the potential of the World Health Organization (WHO) ‘Decade of Healthy Ageing’ (2020 – 2030).  Ms Alana Officer, Senior Health Advisor of the WHO Ageing and Life Course department will open the IFA 15th Global Conference on Ageing “Rights Matter” in Niagara Falls, Canada on the Decade of Healthy Ageing as a focal point for current and future generations of global citizens. Be part of driving the agenda for the world’s ageing population by registering for the IFA 15th Global Conference on Ageing, and join delegates from more than 60 countries to learn from one another’s policies and practice for an ageing population. Key themes include Addressing Inequalities, Age-Friendly Environments, Combating Ageism, and Enabling Functional Ability.

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Vision Loss in Focus

October 10th marked not only World Sight Day 2019, but also the release of the WHO’s first ever World Report on Vision. While the report states that over 2.2 billion people around the world are currently suffering from some form of blindness (either complete or partial) the alarming fact is that without clear action this number is only expected to increase with the projections of population ageing. Given the trends and unequivocal evidence that early screening saves vision, it is difficult to understand why vision health has failed to capture the attention within the field of public health.  While vision impairment is not life threatening, the impact on functional ability is immense.  In a recent article entitled “Making Avoidable Blindness a Thing of the Past", many of the clinical and technological advances developed to address vision impairment are explored. These advances, while encouraging are only part of the solution.  As illustrated by the DR Barometer Study, a comprehensive, two-phase, multi-country study which shone a spotlight on the status of prevention, assessment and treatment of diabetic eye disease (DED), poor awareness continues to be a significant barrier for screening and treatment. This lack of awareness is especially troubling as the increase in type-2 diabetes globally is associated with a rise in the rate of diabetic retinopathy, one of the leading causes of preventable blindness.  Significant effort needs to be employed not only in the development of innovative new technologies, but in supporting patient education and empowerment and increasing the efforts around coordinated care for individuals living with diabetes. “While new technology is part of the solution to eliminating avoidable blindness, it won’t be the single solution,” Dr Andy Cassels-Brown, Medical Director, Fred Hollows Foundation Diabetic Retinopathy, while undoubtedly only one piece of this complex puzzle, has been identified by the WHO as one of the main causes driving the increased rates of vision impairment around the globe. This together with late detection, another key factor identified by the WHO and by the DR Barometer Study, makes diabetic retinopathy one of the most significant threats to vision health today.  To learn more about Diabetic retinopathy Join the DR Barometer Community today and connect with IFA expert Dr. Juan Carlos Silva, a key contributor to the WHO World Report on Vision and a valued member of the DR Community.

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The IFA has a long established and wide-ranging network of member organizations around the world. The network extends to over 75 countries covering every region. Together these organizations represent over 80 million older people.

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