KOCHI: India is set to emerge as the diabetic capital of the world. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 31.7 million people were affected by diabetes mellitus in India in 2000. This figure is estimated to rise to 79.4 million by 2030, the largest number in any nation in the world.Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes causes high blood sugar. Sugar, also called glucose, damages the blood vessels which in turn harms various organs in the body. It is a silent disease, and one won’t notice it until complications such as kidney failure, neuropathy, blindness and other serious problems set in. The eyes are the only organ where the presence of any damage to the blood vessels can be seen first-hand with a simple check-up called dilated fundus examination. This non-invasive check-up involves dilatation of the eyes by means of an eyedrop and examination of the back part of the eye (Retina) which can usually be done in less than an hour.
All diabetics should get their eyes tested for diabetic retinopathy at least once a year and then follow up as per your Ophthalmologist’s advice. Diabetic retinopathy can cause the central part of your retina (responsible for the fineness of your vision) to swell up leading to decreased vision. This entity called Macular Edema can be treated with injections or laser. Diabetic retinopathy can also cause more alarming bleeding inside the eyes and retinal detachment which usually end up requiring laser or surgery.
During the first two decades of disease, nearly all patients with type 1 diabetes and more than 60 per cent of patients with type 2 diabetes have retinopathy. Up to 21 per cent of patients with type 2 diabetes have diabetic retinopathy at the time of the first diagnosis. The presence of other systemic diseases such as hypertension and increased blood cholesterol etc can accelerate diabetic retinopathy. According to the National Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy Survey report released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the prevalence of blindness among diabetic patients was 2.1 per cent and visual impairment was 13.7 per cent.
Diabetic retinopathy can be easily diagnosed and treated but the sad thing is that in the initial stages it never causes any symptoms. If you are diabetic, the absence of symptoms does not mean the absence of diabetic retinopathy. Moreover, the unprecedented effect of the pandemic has resulted in scheduled eye check-ups taking a back seat. This has resulted in significantly worse visual outcomes in patients with diabetic retinopathy. Prevention is the best plan for people with diabetes. Follow your primary doctor’s care plan for managing diabetes, and getcomplete eye check-ups.
The author is a vitreoretinal consultant with Chaithanya Eye Institute Palarivattom