Monday, September 5th, 2016

Why India is fast becoming diabetic retinopathy capital

Rajkumari Tankha | September 5, 2016 3:29 pm Print
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in developed countries. Diabetic patients have 25 per cent more chances of blindness.
diabetic retinopathy : Picture for representational purposes only


India had 69 million diabetics in 2015 and it is feared that number will increase to 123 million by 2040. India is fast becoming the Diabetic Retinopathy capital. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in developed countries. Diabetic patients have 25 per cent more chances of blindness.

These scaring facts were brought to light at the National Conference on Diabetic Blindness organized by Vision Plus Eye Centre (Noida) in association with All India Ophthalmological Society (AIOS) and Uttar Pradesh Ophthalmological Society (UPSOS) in Noida . About 100 doctors from across the country, including ophthalmologists and diabetologists attended the conference.

The doctors participating in the conference informed that to keep diabetes at bay, one must control sugar and keep blood pressure under check. “Prevention is always better than cure,” says Dr Ritu Arora. But once a person develops blood sugar, there should be regular examinations of blood sugar level. And along with this, one must get the eyes tested for vision on regular basis. Initially eye tests should be done annually but later half-yearly and even quarterly tests should be done so that diabetic retinopathy could be noticed as soon as these occur.

“There are almost 15-20% diabetic patients in the country, which means every fifth person is a diabetic. Diabetes affect working age years and leads to a number of other complications like Ulcers, cataract, glaucoma, squint, eye floaters,” says Vitero-Retina specialist Dr Ajay Aurora. “And early treatment is the best treatment,” he adds.

“After cancer and coronary heart disease, this is going to be the next big killer. Diabetes is a chronic debilitating disease that can only be controlled, there is no cure for it. Many people don’t know that blood sugar affects the eyes very badly in the long run. No matter how well you control your diabetes, after 15 to 20 years, it will impact your vision. It is inevitable that your eyes will get affected. This is why diabetes needs to be monitored closely because it can cause blindness,” says Dr Aurora. “But the good news is as much as 90 per cent of the cases of blindness due to diabetes are preventable,” he adds.

Risk factors of diabetic retinopathy
1) Duration of diabetes, the longer you have diabetes, the greater your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy
2) Poor control of your blood sugar level
3) High blood pressure
4) High cholesterol
5) Pregnancy
6) Tobacco use
7) Being black, Hispanic or Native American

Challenges facing India
1) The population of India is huge.
2) Eye surgeons and specialists lack adequate training
3) There is little or no awareness among the people about diabetes and complications that may arise out of prolonged diabetes.
4) There are just about 19,000 eye specialists in India. Almost all of these are trained in treatment of cataract while just about 2000-2500 are trained in diabetic retinopathy. And of these 2500 only about 500 can actually d retina operation.

Rajkumari Tankha
Rajkumari Tankha
The writer is a Delhi-based journalist. She has previously worked for Ministry of I & B (Govt of India), Hindustan Times and Special Audience Publications.