Diabetes and diabetic retinopathy in Singapore 

Up to 1 in 9 Singapore residents suffer from diabetes. From that, about 1 in 3 is afflicted with diabetic retinopathy (DR), which causes fluid to leak into the eyeball.

According to Diabetes Singapore, diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of blindness in adults aged 20 to 60. The prevalence of the condition is strongly related to prolonged periods of high blood sugar levels.

Other contributors are high blood pressure and the concomitant presence of kidney complications. DR is preventable through good control of diabetes and blood pressure. Early detection of DR through regular screening can help delay the onset of blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy symptoms

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Blurred vision

  • Dark clouds in your field of vision due to bleeding inside the eye

Usually, patients have no symptoms – vision is perfectly normal in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. Once vision is affected, the diabetic retinopathy is usually severe.

In fact, 80 per cent* of people with longstanding diabetes will develop diabetic retinopathy. Hence, if you have diabetes, you need to have your eyes checked yearly.

*Based on a 2001 study by Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI)

Diabetic retinopathy screening

In the past, patients had to go to polyclinics or hospitals for screening to detect the condition, which could take a few hours, including queuing time and waiting for the doctor. The photographs might take days to be analysed, and feedback given to patients, sometimes at the next appointment, could be weeks or months later.

Patients suspected of suffering from diabetic retinopathy (DR) – which can cause blindness if it’s not treated in time – had to get their eyes screened at a polyclinic or hospital. If they were diagnosed with DR, they would be referred to an eye specialist.

“An alternative would be to ta​p on trained non-physician technicians to reduce their burden,” said Professor Wong Tien Yin, Medical Director and Chair, EYE-ACP, Senior Consultant, Medical Retina Department (Retina Centre)​, Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), a member of the SingHealth group.

Prof Wong, who is the Provost’s Chair Professor of Ophthalmology, NUS; Vice Dean, Office of Academic and Clinical Development, Duke-NUS Medical School, said Family doctors in many countries, including those in Singapore, can actually analyse the eye photographs, but are just too busy to do this for all diabetic patients.

See page 2 to learn how the SiDRP (Singapore Integrated Diabetic Retinopathy Programme) can help​.​

Ref: L20​

Check out other articles on diabetic retinopathy and diabetes management:

Diabetic Retinopathy: What Is It and How to Take Care

How Diabetes Can Cause Other Complications

How to Manage Diabetes Better: Your One-Stop Resource

Need Help Managing Diabetes? Get It with GLiMPSE