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Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes will affect over 438 million individuals or nearly 8% of the world’s population by the year 2030. Diabetes causes damage to the retina (the light sensing tissue in the back of the eye), a condition called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of new onset blindness and the leading cause of moderate vision loss in the United States and most other developed countries. Fortunately, with appropriate treatment, much of the vision loss associated with diabetes can be prevented. However, since early stages of diabetic eye disorders are often asymptomatic, timely identification, and routine lifelong follow-up are critically important for preservation of vision.

The Joslin Diabetes Center is the world’s largest freestanding center dedicated to the treatment, basic and clinical research, and patient and professional education of diabetes. The Beetham Eye Institute (BEI) is the Ophthalmology Department of the Joslin Diabetes Center and is dedicated to state-of-the-art care, evaluation, teaching and research of patients with diabetic eye disease. The BEI has been specifically designed, staffed and equipped for premier evaluation of diabetic eye complications, including vision testing, advanced diagnostic imaging of the retina, and grading of diabetic eye abnormalities according to globally accepted Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study and Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network standards.

Leaders from the BEI have helped create the national standards for the diagnosis and management of diabetic eye complications. BEI ophthalmologists have helped pioneer numerous diagnostic and treatment techniques for diabetic ocular disease, including:

  • Panretinal laser treatment for proliferative diabetic retinopathy
  • Focal/grid laser treatment of diabetic macular edema
  • Basic-science and clinical research supporting the use of anti-VEGF therapy for diabetic macular edema and proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
  • The development of the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network ( – the nation’s largest network dedicated to clinical studies of diabetic eye disease.
  • The development of the most fully validated telemedicine program for the identification and treatment of diabetic retinal disease – the Joslin Vision Network (JVN)

A major emphasis of the BEI is its design, implementation and analyses of a wide range of research programs, thus offering its patients access to cutting edge clinical research through a wide range of ongoing clinical studies assessing the prevention and treatment of vision loss from diabetes.


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