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News, Research

International partnership focuses on diabetic eyecare

10/04/2019By Myles Hume
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Australian and Indonesian researchers are joining forces to develop new recommendations designed to protect the sight of pregnant women with pre-existing diabetes.

In a study that could help significantly reshape public health policy in both countries, Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) researchers Dr Felicia Widyaputri and Associate Professor Lyndell Lim will work with counterparts at the Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia, to develop advice on when and how often women with diabetes should have their eyes checked during pregnancy.

The Indonesian study will determine the prevalence of diabetes in pregnant women in the city of Yogjakarta and assess their access to eyecare. The next step of the study will be informed by the findings from Widyaputri’s current PhD research at CERA, which is monitoring the eye health of 150 women with pre-existing diabetes before, during and after pregnancy.

Widyaputri’s study, which aims to determine the prevalence and progression of diabetic retinopathy during pregnancy, examines women’s eyes during each trimester of their pregnancy, and when their baby is three months old.



“With our study we hope to get a clearer perspective of how far diabetic retinopathy can progress during pregnancy and when are the best points of time for patients to have their eyes checked.”
Dr Felicia Widyaputri, CERA

Working with women at Melbourne’s Royal Women’s and Mercy hospitals, Widyaputri is also monitoring their eyes for the earliest signs of diabetic retinopathy changes using a non-invasive imaging technique that can visualise the blood vessels in the retina.

Eventually, Widyaputri’s research will be used to inform Indonesian health protocols for the care of pregnant women with diabetes, and provide valuable information that could contribute to an update of current Australian guidelines.

According to the researchers, women with both forms of diabetes are at particular risk of diabetic retinopathy during pregnancy, but often the disease is only detected once irreversible damage had occurred. 

“Although it is largely agreed that diabetic retinopathy is worsened by pregnancy, there is still more we can do to protect women’s sight,’’ Widyaputri said.

“Current Australian guidelines recommend that pregnant women with diabetes undertake a comprehensive eye check in their first trimester, but less than 50% have their eyes checked.

“With our study we hope to get a clearer perspective of how far diabetic retinopathy can progress during pregnancy and when are the best points of time for patients to have their eyes checked.”

AFT Pharmaceuticals
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More reading:

CERA research may spark glaucoma ‘sub-group’ treatment
New eye research receives $150,000 funding

Image Caption: CERA PhD student Dr Widyaputri and Associate Professor Lyndell Lim. Credit: Anna Carlile

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