President & CEO, Diabetes Canada
It’s been 100 years since the discovery of insulin. While the discovery has improved the health of people with diabetes, it isn’t a cure. The prevalence and cost of diabetes continue to rise. There are nearly 11.5 million Canadians with diabetes or prediabetes, and it costs our health care system $30 billion each year. If the diabetes epidemic continues at this pace, Canadians at age 20 face a 50 percent chance of developing diabetes in their lifetime.
The most common long-term complication of diabetes is a form of eye damage called diabetic retinopathy (DR). If left undetected and untreated, DR can lead to severe sight loss and irreversible blindness.
For some, the disease also continues to be shockingly successful at causing severe health consequences. The most common long-term complication of diabetes is a form of eye damage called diabetic retinopathy (DR). If left undetected and untreated, DR can lead to severe sight loss and irreversible blindness. Most people living with diabetes will be affected by DR at some stage in their life, and people affected by diabetes are 25 times more likely than the general population to become blind.
A lack of awareness about DR is a major barrier facing people living with diabetes and is one reason why Diabetes Canada isn’t waiting another 100 years to change the course of diabetes. There’s hope that things will improve sooner. We were pleased that recent advocacy work by us and others led to a commitment in the 2021 federal budget to implement a national diabetes framework. Specifically, $25 million over five years has been allocated for diabetes research, surveillance, prevention, innovation, and the development of a comprehensive diabetes strategy. As well, $10 million has been allocated over five years to surface novel interventions to prevent type 2 diabetes.
Awareness of risk and prevention strategies can support the delaying or preventing of some diabetes-related health consequences, including the onset of sight loss due to DR. It’s important to know, for example, that the risk or worsening of eye damage can be reduced through blood glucose (sugar) management, regular eye exams, and early treatment. Across Canada, DR screening rates range from 35 to 67 percent. People with diabetes should be screened regularly, regardless of where they live.