“One in three diabetics in India develop diabetic retinopathy, a diabetic complication that could lead to severe vision loss or permanent blindness. To reduce the risk of developing this eye condition, diabetics must keep their blood sugar in control and should go for eye screening frequently for early diagnosis and treatment,” said Dr. S Bernard Albert Rajkumar, Regional Medical Director, Dr Agarwal’s Eye Hospital, Tuticorin.
In view of World Diabetes Day, the hospital is providing free consultation for anyone aged 50 years or above. It also offers a 50% waiver in consultation fee for diabetics belonging to other age groups.
Dr Bernard was addressing a press meet, organised by Dr Agarwal’s Eye Hospital, in association with RIAS Civil Services Academy, marking the World Diabetes Day, which falls on November 14 every year. The press meet was attended by Dr. B. Ramaswamy, Member, National Lok Adalat Court – Delhi, and Judge, Appellate Authority of AICTE, Government of India, and Mrs. T. Charusree IAS, Corporation Commissioner, Tuticorin.
Dr Bernard pointed out that in the early stage, diabetic retinopathy remains totally asymptomatic. Hence, eye checkup is a must as soon as diabetes is diagnosed, and then once every year. People with mild stages of diabetic retinopathy should have their eyes checked once in six months, and those with moderate to severe condition, every three months. Pregnancy induced diabetes (gestational diabetes) also needs screening every three months during pregnancy, as diabetic retinopathy can progress faster during this period.
The eye screening is a painless procedure, requiring dilated examination of the retina, and eye scans. Among the tests, the hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test, which measures the amount of blood sugar (glucose) attached to hemoglobin, is important.
He said that diabetic retinopathy is a preventable condition. “The awareness of diabetes and diabetic retinopathy will go a long way in saving the vision of diabetics. If diagnosed in the early stage, vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy can be easily avoided. In recent years, the treatment for this condition has vastly improved. The treatment options include lasers, intravitreal injections, and surgery, depending on the stage of the disease.”
Dr Bernard said that in recent years, we see more and more young people developing diabetes and subsequently diabetic retinopathy. As the disease progresses, people get defective vision and floaters (seeing dark / flying spots in front of their eyes).
Complications may also include swelling in the centre part of retina (macular edema), bleeding inside the eye (vitreous hemorrhage) or retinal detachment. These complications may lead to advanced diabetic eye disease causing irreversible damage to retina and irreversible vision loss.
The most common risk factors are duration of diabetes and uncontrolled diabetes as well as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, anaemia, renal diseases, and smoking. Hence, keeping blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol under control, and lifestyle modifications like regular exercises, and dietary changes will help in avoiding complications.