Timely diagnosis and treatment can treat 90% of vision loss, say experts

More than two billion individuals live with eye conditions globally, with India alone home to millions of people suffering from preventable vision loss. According to AIIMS’ National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey India 2015-19, 1.99% of Indians over the age of 50 years suffer from blindness. While the number of Indians facing potential blindness is alarming, an even bigger concern is that the contributing conditions are greatly under-diagnosed.

One such diseases is Diabetic Macular Edema (DME), a complication of diabetic retinopathy, affecting the back of the eye (the retina). With over 77 million people with diabetes in India, the country has emerged as the diabetes capital of the world. As a reason, a simultaneous and sharp rise has been observed in the prevalence of diabetes-related preventable vision loss.

Dr. Aniruddha Maiti, Senior Consultant at Netralayam & BB Eye Foundation VIP, said, “As preventive measures, if there is a family history of diabetes, one should get their sugar checked every six months and all diabetic patients should get their retina check-ups every six months even if there are no signs and symptoms. As diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of blindness, it should be addressed at the earliest.”

Dr. Vishal Agrawal, Senior Eye Specialist & Vitreo Retinal Surgeon, Secretary, Jaipur Ophthalmological Society said “India accounts for a major chunk of the world’s total burden of blindness and vision impairment. Almost 90% of vision loss is preventable or treatable. Investing in your eye health improves quality of life, economic empowerment and educational attainment. Good vision is fundamental in achieving all round development goals. The main causes of vision loss are uncorrected refractive errors (non-use of glasses), cataract, glaucoma and retinal diseases like diabetic retinopathy & age-related macular degeneration. Timely diagnosis and treatment are imperative across these conditions, failing which it can result in irreversible vision loss. Routine eye check-ups for patients with diabetes, children and the elderly population can aid in early detection and minimal vision loss.”

“Routine screening must be done every six months. However, if one has the disease, the follow ups become frequent. The biggest hurdle in Diabetic Retinopathy and DME is that patients are not aware of the need for screening. Patients are sometimes asymptomatic till the disease becomes untreatable.” added Dr. Poonam Jain, Director of JAI Eye Care Centre and consultant Ophthalmo logist at Galaxy Speciality Centre Common signs and symptoms One must be alert and visit an Ophthalmologist or a Retina specialist in case of any of these symptoms:

• Blurred or fuzzy or distorted vision
• Impaired colour vision
• Decreased contrast or colour sensitivity
• Experiencing dark spots in vision
• Straight lines that appear wavy or crooked
• Difficulty seeing at a distance

Treating & Managing Eye Diseases

Early detection is vital to prevent vision loss and recognizing its symptoms and undergoing screening can be key to this. There are various treatment options available that can limit disease progression and consulting an ophthalmologist to discuss available treatment modalities is a key step to understanding options that can be beneficial for maintaining eye health. Some of the options available in India include laser photocoagulation, anti-VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor) injections, surgery and combination therapy which includes laser and anti-VEGF treatment.

Strictly adhering to prescribed treatments and recommended lifestyle modifications will help individuals keep their eye diseases in check, so they can benefit from improved outcomes.