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How to prevent vision loss if you are a diabetes patient

How to prevent vision loss if you are a diabetes patient

India is set to emerge as the diabetic capital of the world.

Take the NetraSuraksha Self Check here.

India is set to emerge as the diabetic capital of the world. There are roughly 74 million cases of diabetes in the adult population as of 2021 and experts at the International Diabetes Federation predict this number will climb to 93 million in 2030 and 124 million in 20451.

Diabetes doesn’t just cause fatigue and irritability. It can cause real damage to your body. Diabetes, hypertension, or a combination of both, cause 80% of end-stage renal disease globally2. Both diabetes and chronic kidney disease are strongly associated with cardiovascular diseases. Diabetic foot and lower limb complications, which affect 40 to 60 million people with diabetes globally, are an important source of morbidity in people with diabetes2. Chronic ulcers and amputations result in a significant reduction in the quality of life and increase the risk of early death2.

Another known complication of diabetes is Diabetic Retinopathy - an eye condition that is the most common cause of vision loss for people with diabetes. Based on an analysis of 35 studies worldwide carried out between 1980 and 2008, the overall prevalence of any Diabetic Retinopathy in people with diabetes using retinal images was estimated to be 35% with vision-threatening Diabetic Retinopathy present in 12%2. In India, this problem is complicated by the lack of awareness, and the high prevalence of undiagnosed diabetes. It is estimated that 43.9 million Indians have diabetes, but haven’t yet been diagnosed2.

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So how does Diabetic Retinopathy affect vision? High blood glucose levels, when left unchecked, create blocks in the small blood vessels that keep your retina healthy. The retina is a lining at the back of the eye that processes light into images. The blood vessels can swell, leak fluid, or bleed, which often leads to vision changes or blindness. This condition usually affects both eyes. When left untreated, Diabetic Retinopathy can scar and damage your retina and cause loss of vision4.

Diabetic Retinopathy can affect people with all types of diabetes - be it Type I, Type II or gestational diabetes. Almost two-third of all patients with Type II diabetes and almost all patients with Type I diabetes are expected to develop Diabetic Retinopathy over a period of time3.

You might not have any signs of Diabetic Retinopathy until the condition is already advanced. This is why regular screening is essential - this is a condition that can be prevented, but not reversed. Diabetic Retinopathy symptoms include blurry vision, inability to see colours, holes or floaters or black spots in your vision. One of the earliest symptoms though, is trouble with reading or driving4. So if you’re beginning to notice this, and if your blood reports put you in the diabetic or pre-diabetic range, it’s time to get tested.

Understanding the importance of Diabetic Retinopathy screening, Network 18 has launched the ‘Netra Suraksha’ - India Against Diabetes initiative, in association with Novartis. The initiative aims to build awareness about diabetes and eye related complications like Diabetic Retinopathy, the silent thief of sight. It aims to do so with the help of the Indian medical community, think tanks and policy makers. Apart from roundtable discussions and regular awareness drives, the initiative has also created a Diabetic Retinopathy Self Check Up, and will be publishing a number of articles and videos that will help people with diabetes (and those who are pre-diabetic) better manage their overall health, and particularly, that of their eyes.

Do your part: get yourself and your loved ones tested for Diabetic Retinopathy today. Start with the Diabetic Retinopathy Self Check, and while you’re at it, make an appointment to test your blood glucose levels and blood pressure. Even if your blood glucose and blood pressure tests are clear, ensure you see an eye doctor at least once a year for a complete eye exam.

A non-invasive painless test is the first step in effectively fighting the progression of Diabetic Retinopathy. Your doctor will dilate your pupils to look for any changes in your eye’s blood vessels or see if any new ones have grown. They will also check if your retina is swollen or detached. All of this takes less than an hour.

Even if you receive a diagnosis of Diabetic Retinopathy, all is not lost. Diabetic Retinopathy is a manageable condition, and having caught it early, you can take the necessary steps to prevent it from progressing any further. In fact, Type II diabetes is now considered a reversible disease, particularly in the early stages5. Give yourself the best shot at beating it, through early detection!

As lifestyles and diets change, Diabetic Retinopathy is becoming an increasingly serious threat to eye health in India. Follow News18.com for more updates about the Netra Suraksha initiative, and enlist in the fight to save your loved ones from diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy.

1. IDF Atlas, International Diabetes Federation, 10th edition, 2021

2. IDF Atlas, International Diabetes Federation, 9th edition, 2019

3. Gadkari SS, Maskati QB, Nayak BK. Prevalence of diabetic retinopathy in India: The all India ophthalmological society diabetic retinopathy eye screening study 2014. Indian journal of ophthalmology. 2016 Jan;64(1):38.

4. https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/diabetic-retinopathy 10 Dec, 2021

5. https://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes-reversible#type-1-vs-type-2 10 Dec, 2021

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first published:December 23, 2021, 16:53 IST