More than 30 million Americans are living with diabetes, putting them at risk for vision loss and blindness due to diabetic retinopathy (DR) and diabetic macular edema (DME). Diabetic retinopathy, one of the leading causes of blindness among adults in the US, today affects nearly 8 million people with the expectation that this number will double by the year 2050. Nearly 1 million Americans are diagnosed with DME, which can also lead to substantial and permanent vision loss if left untreated. Nearly 30% of individuals with diabetes, and 40% of those living with DR or DME are not receiving routine eye exams. Vision impairment and permanent blindness caused by DR/DME can have a significant and negative impact on a patient's quality of life.
Dr. Janine Austin-Clayton, Associate Director for Research on Women's Health at the National Institutes of Health, is asking healthcare providers to help us improve our efforts in saving vision and preventing blindness by taking more assertive action on behalf of our patients with diabetes. The acronym ASSERT-D was created as a reminder to be more proactive to ASsess, Screen, Refer, and Treat diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema in patients with Diabetes. This initiative is both a wakeup call and a call to action to healthcare professionals to do more. We cannot continue to fail these patients.