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Seeing others through

Toronto, December 15, 2015

By Geoff Koehler

Dr. Neeru Gupta
Dr. Neeru Gupta

Five years after the Olympics, the world came to Vancouver for another winter event. There were no bobsleds or skates this time, but the World Diabetes Congress did provide a stage to feature some of the best in their field, including Dr. Neeru Gupta.

Dr. Gupta, an ophthalmologist and researcher with St. Michael’s Hospital was in Vancouver launching the world’s first eye health guide to help health care professionals who work with patients with diabetes.

“Many patients and health care providers don’t know that diabetes is the leading cause of vision loss among working-aged adults, but the negative impact of diabetes on eye health is staggering,” said Dr. Gupta, who is also a scientist with the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science of St. Michael’s.

One in every three patients with diabetes has an eye disease, called diabetic retinopathy, which can cause severe vision loss and blindness.

There are 415 million people living with diabetes, but only 205,000 ophthalmologists worldwide—and they are not distributed evenly across the globe.

“In rural Africa, for example, there is one ophthalmologist per 7 million patients,” said Dr. Gupta. “Beating blindness from diabetic eye disease is going to need a community solution.”

The Fred Hollows Foundation, the International Diabetes Federation and Dr. Gupta—through her work with the International Council of Ophthalmology — developed guidelines that will help health professionals manage their patients’ diabetes and diagnose and treat diabetic eye disease.

The guide, Diabetes Eye Health, builds on the approaches used by international eye doctors to treat diabetic retinopathy. The guide is the first to outline the role and actions of all care givers for people with diabetes—including family doctors, nurses, diabetes educators, first-contact health providers and endocrinologists.

“Making patients and healthcare providers aware of the problem, with very practical actions that can be taken at every level, is a big part of the solution,” said Dr. Gupta.

The World Diabetes Congress was the perfect place to unveil the new guide. Attendees included physicians, scientists, nurses and other healthcare professionals; government officials and policy makers; and representatives from 230 diabetes associations.

“It was inspiring to present at the World Diabetes Congress, and to be in the company of providers, patients and scientific leaders in the field—all in one room,” said Dr. Gupta. “We all understand that the only way to prevent unnecessary blindness from diabetes is to work together.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.