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Ophthalmologists see treatment for vision loss in diabetic retinopathy as major challenge with no drugs & late diagnosis

Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru
Monday, November 14, 2022, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Ophthalmologists see treatment of vision loss in diabetic retinopathy as major challenge with no drugs and late diagnosis. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among adults worldwide, including in developing countries such as India.

Burden of diabetes-related blindness is undeniably posing a massive threat. Approximately one-third of people with diabetes develop some degree of the condition and it has become the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in adults. The condition can be broadly classified as non-proliferative and proliferative Retinopathy. One is the early stage and the second is the damage occurring to the retina because of diabetic retinopathy which is permanent, they added.

Noting that prevalence of diabetes eye problem has increased alarmingly, ophthalmologists have warned that people should watch out for loss of vision. India, which is the diabetes capital of the world, is facing an imminent challenge to control the disease burden of diabetes and associated health issues due to the disease. People with diabetes for more than 5 years are more prone to develop diabetic retinopathy, said ophthalmologists.

On the occasion of the World Diabetes Day observed annually on November 14, this year’s theme is ‘Education to protect tomorrow’ under the combined theme of the World Diabetes Day 2021-23 campaign ‘Access to Diabetes Care’. The World Health Organization estimates that diabetic retinopathy accounts for 4.8% of the 37 million cases of blindness worldwide.

According to Dr Shibu Varkey, regional medical director, MaxiVision Eye Hospitals, the first 10 years of diabetes are the most important as complications usually start after this. . First to be affected are eyes and it leads to blindness. Optimal blood sugar level should be decided by one’s level of organ damage.

“The worrying rate of increase in prevalence of diabetes is a great cause of concern, and it has also significantly induced an increase in diabetic eye problems. The main challenge of fighting diabetic retinopathy is early diagnosis and treatment.  Though the symptoms might start as a mild disease, but the diabetic retinopathy can cause severe visual impairment and, in some cases, blindness especially with diabetic patients those with high sugar levels”, said Dr. Rakesh Seenappa, consultant ophthalmologist, Dr Agarwal’s Eye Hospital, Bengaluru.

“The various treatment modalities available are retinal lasers, intravitreal anti-VEGF infection and vitrectomy surgeries. At present intravitreal injections are emerging as one of the main lines of treatment for most forms of retinopathy. But all these treatment modalities will be effective only if the patient is able to control sugar levels because diabetic retinopathy is just a complication of uncontrolled diabetes. The cause is high blood glucose levels, unless this is addressed, we cannot treat the complication effectively. Even if we do treat the retinal pathology with satisfactory result, it can always recur in the future if diabetes is uncontrolled,” said Dr Seenappa.


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