That diabetes is on the rise in India, is evident. There was a time when diabetes was so rare that when someone near and dear received a diabetes diagnosis, it was considered a significant occurrence. Today, it’s rare to find a family untouched by diabetes.
The International Diabetes Federation Atlas 2019 estimated that there are roughly 77 million cases of diabetes in the adult population of India as of 2019. It also predicts that this number will climb to 101 million in 2030 and to 134 million in 20451. That’s not all. There is another disturbing trend on the rise – the growing number of young adults and children with diabetes1. There are multiple risk factors contributing to this rise in numbers: less active lifestyle, highly processed food, etc2.
With children and young adults, however, the risks aren’t limited to Type 2 diabetes alone: there’s also Type 1 diabetes, which is almost exclusively diagnosed in children and young adults. Globally, 1,110,100 children and adolescents younger than 20 years are estimated to have Type 1 diabetes. It is estimated that the incidence of Type 1 diabetes among children and adolescents is increasing 3% annually1.
What is Type 1 Diabetes, and how is it different from Type 2?
In Type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks the pancreas, hurting its capacity to produce insulin3. This type of diabetes generally arises from genetic factors4. In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas still makes insulin, but the body develops insulin resistance. The pancreas keeps making more and more insulin, eventually wearing the organ out. In extreme cases, the pancreas stops producing insulin altogether5.
There is a common misconception that Type 2 diabetes or ‘adult-onset’ diabetes only affects the elderly. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. One in every four people under 25 with diabetes (25.3%) in India has adult-onset Type 2 diabetes3.
Type 2 diabetes can happen for a variety of factors, like diet, limited physical activity, or genetic predisposition. Experts believe that the skyrocketing rate of childhood obesity is one of the factors responsible for the sudden spike of pediatric type 2 diabetes cases5.
The good news is that young people with Type 2 diabetes may not need insulin supplementation, especially if detected early. There are a number of lifestyle interventions and medications that can be used to effectively manage diabetes, even when it is early onset2. However, early onset of diabetes means that diabetes exists in the body for a longer period, exposing the person to higher risks of developing chronic complications associated with diabetes6. These can affect several organ systems, the least known of which is the link between Diabetes and vision loss due to Diabetic Retinopathy (DR).
Diabetes and its effect on the eyes
Diabetic Retinopathy is an eye related complication of diabetes which affects the retina. High blood glucose levels can cause the blood vessels in the eye to burst, swell, or leak; damaging the eye. DR is asymptomatic in the early stages but as the condition progresses, it can cause difficulty in reading, blurry vision, floating spots, and other vision complications. If not caught in time, it can lead to permanent vision loss7.
It affects people with both, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and as with many diabetes related complications, the risk of developing DR increases with time. When someone is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, it is very rare that they are also diagnosed with DR. However, as time goes on, the chances of developing DR also rise. In 20 years, as many as 99% of people with Type 1 diabetes have variously advanced symptoms8.
For those who are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, the situation is different. DR can be present at the time of the initial diagnosis, and as with Type 1 diabetes, the chances of developing DR rise with time. In 20 years, roughly 60% of people with Type 2 diabetes show symptoms of DR8.
Diabetic Retinopathy and You
The good news is that vision loss due to DR can be stopped in its tracks, IF it is diagnosed early9. Once DR is detected, you and your doctor can chart a clear path for you, to keep your diabetes in check and to prevent further damage to your vision9. The first step though, is getting an accurate diagnosis.
DR can be diagnosed by your ophthalmologist, using a DR screening eye test6. To raise awareness about DR, and the ease with which DR related vision loss can be prevented, Network18 launched the ‘Netra Suraksha’ – India Against Diabetes initiative, in association with Novartis in 2021. Now in its second year, the initiative is focused on organizing in-person health camps across the nation.
Join us in the fight against DR related vision loss by arming yourself and your loved ones with information. You can access informative articles, videos and roundtable discussions between policy makers, doctors and think tanks from Season 1, on the Netra Suraksha Initiative website.
- IDF Atlas, International Diabetes Federation, 9th edition, 2019. Available at: https://diabetesatlas.org/atlas/ninth-edition/ [Accessed 3 Aug 2022]
- Type 2 Diabetes in Children. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes-in-children/symptoms-causes/syc-20355318 [Accessed 3 Aug 2022]
- One in every four of India’s youth suffer from deadlier type 2 diabetes. Available at: https://www.hindustantimes.com/health/world-diabetes-day-one-in-every-four-of-india-s-youth-suffer-from-the-deadlier-type-2/story-LP4ugRJ5qqLNITYg24xCbO.html [Accessed 3 Aug 2022]
- Type 1 Diabetes. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/type-1-diabetes/ [Accessed 3 Aug 2022]
- Generation Diabetes: Why the Youngest Type 2 Diabetes Patients Are the Sickest. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/why-the-youngest-type-2-diabetes-patients-are-the-sickest#The-fight-to-control-blood-sugar- [Accessed 3 Aug 2022]
- Complications of Diabetes. Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/complications [Accessed 3 Aug 2022]
- Diabetic Retinopathy is on the rise in young people. Here’s how you can control it! Available at: https://www.news18.com/news/lifestyle/diabetic-retinopathy-is-on-the-rise-in-young-people-heres-how-you-can-control-it-4586237.html [Accessed 3 Aug 2022]
- Bryl A, Mrugacz M, Falkowski M, Zorena K. The Effect of Diet and Lifestyle on the Course of Diabetic Retinopathy-A Review of the Literature. Nutrients. 2022 Mar 16;14(6):1252. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8955064/ [Accessed 3 Aug 2022]
- Abràmoff MD, Reinhardt JM, Russell SR, Folk JC, Mahajan VB, Niemeijer M, Quellec G. Automated early detection of diabetic retinopathy. Ophthalmology. 2010 Jun;117(6):1147-54. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2881172/ [Accessed 3 Aug 2022]
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