Preventing Blindness from Diabetic Eye Disease and Diabetic Retinopathy in Armenia

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness throughout the world. In Armenia a little more than nine percent of the three million people have diabetes — about 270,000 — all at risk for diabetic retinopathy and blindness if their diabetes is not controlled.

Statistically, of the 270,000 diabetics in Armenia, one-third or 33 percent have diabetic retinopathy — 90,000 people. And of these 90,000, one-third — 30,000 — have vision threatening diabetes and require treatment. If they do not receive treatment they will go blind.

To prevent blindness from diabetic retinopathy in Armenia the EyeCare Project launched an innovative new Diabetes Program in Armenia funded by the World Diabetes Foundation (WDF). With a three-year grant targeting low-income individuals in Armenia, the WDF grant enables the Project to treat patients throughout the country with diabetes-related eye disease — screening up to 270,000 Armenians and providing advanced care for those in need. Our mission: to prevent diabetic eye disease through prevention and early intervention

Using a retinal camera all persons in Armenia with diabetes, including those with diabetic retinopathy, will be screened annually by a retina team, comprised of Armenian physicians trained by the EyeCare Project through fellowships at major U.S. medical institutions. They will photograph the retinas of all diabetic patients and record any changes. These photographs will then be evaluated for signs of eye disease and referred for treatment if needed. Those that show vision threatening disease— “graded” 1-4, 4 worst —will be scheduled for laser treatment. Any person identified with diabetic retinopathy will be treated before it is too late to prevent blindness. The Project’s goal is to screen every diabetic in Armenia and to provide early treatment to prevent blindness.

In support of the Project’s Diabetes Program LDS Charities, the humanitarian arm of The Church of the Latter-Day Saints, has donated two $45,000 lasers enabling the Project to treat diabetic eye disease with a laser procedure following diagnosis, which will prevent vision loss and ultimately blindness.

Through its intensive prevention and early intervention retina program utilizing retina cameras and software, the EyeCare Project will demonstrate that cost-effective prevention and early intervention programs will eliminate the 80 percent of all cases of avoidable blindness, specifically diabetic retinopathy and the 8,000 cases in Armenia.