Do the NetraSuraksha Self Check here.
Say the word “diabetes” and the conversation usually revolves around things like dietary restrictions, carbohydrate counting, stories of visits to the diabetologist, and the latest blood sugar monitoring devices. What is rarely mentioned is how diabetes can affect eye health. In fact, there are plenty of myths about how diabetes affects your eyesight.
To counter these myths and empower people with diabetes to take better care of their health and vision, Network 18, in partnership with Novartis, has launched the ‘Netra Suraksha’ – India Against Diabetes initiative. As part of the initiative, Network18 will broadcast roundtables with medical experts, and publish explainer videos and articles that contribute to the public knowledge of diabetes, its effect on vision and diabetic retinopathy, a scary complication that affects nearly half of the population. people with diabetes1.
So let’s get our facts straight.
Myth 1: If I can see, my eyes are healthy.
Clear vision is key, but it’s no guarantee that your eyes are healthy. Many conditions have few or no symptoms in the early stages.
Glaucoma is often referred to as the silent thief of sight because there are no symptoms to warn you. Glaucoma damages a nerve in the back of your eye called the optic nerve, which connects to the brain2. With glaucoma, there is no cure, so it is important that you catch it early and start treatment. Without treatment, glaucoma can cause blindness.
A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye. Cataracts take several years to develop and may not affect vision until mature. Surgical intervention is required once the disease progresses3.
Diabetic retinopathy is by far the most common condition associated with diabetes. In diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels supplying the eye (especially the retina) become clogged, leaky, or burst4. Diabetic retinopathy is asymptomatic in the early stages, but as the condition progresses it can cause reading difficulties that are not relieved by a change of glasses. If not caught in time, it can lead to permanent vision loss4.
Myth 2: The risk of eye problems in people with diabetes is not that high
Numbers don’t lie. Globally, diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the workforce5. In India, approximately 57 million people with diabetes mellitus will have retinopathy by 20255.
Positive thinking is always an asset, but wishful thinking can have the opposite effect. Diabetic retinopathy is a serious and common complication of diabetes, and the longer you have had diabetes, the greater your risk.
Myth 3: Diabetic retinopathy only affects people with type 1 diabetes.
Anyone with diabetes can develop diabetic eye disease, it does not differentiate between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It can also affect someone with gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy. During the first two decades of the disease, almost all patients with type 1 diabetes and >60% of patients with type 2 diabetes develop retinopathy6.
Getting your eyes checked regularly can help your doctor identify and treat diabetes vision problems early.
Myth 4: I’ve only just been diagnosed with diabetes, so I don’t need eye checks just yet.
While it’s true that the risk of diabetic retinopathy increases with the time you’ve had diabetes, this is a statistic. Individual risks work differently. Everyone’s body is different, and just because the risk of developing something isn’t high in the general population, it doesn’t mean that your personally the risk is not high. Or that you don’t get it.
Yes, vision-threatening retinopathy is rare in type 1 diabetic patients in the first 3-5 years of diabetes or before puberty. Over the next two decades, nearly all type 1 diabetic patients develop retinopathy.
But, up to 21% of patients with type 2 diabetes have retinopathy at the time of first diagnosis of diabetes6!
Myth 5: Diabetic retinopathy always causes blindness.
New. Not if caught early. The sooner your doctor diagnoses you, the better your prognosis. Diabetic retinopathy is a progressive disease, meaning the sooner you notice it and the better you manage it, the more likely you are to stop it.
Based on an analysis of 35 studies conducted worldwide between 1980 and 2008, the overall prevalence of diabetic retinopathy in people with diabetes was estimated at 35% using images of the retina, with sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy present in only 12% .4.
So get your annual eye test (with your doctor, not your eyewear store!), and manage your blood sugar levels.
Myth 6: If there’s something seriously wrong with my eyes, I know right away.
In many types of eye conditions, patients don’t notice any symptoms during their earliest — most treatable — stages. For example, diabetic retinopathy is completely asymptomatic until it becomes severe7.
That’s right: no pain. No vision changes7. No clues at all. According to Dr. Manisha Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Retina Society of India, one of the first symptoms is even persistent difficulty in reading, which does not go away even with a change of glasses. This is an early sign that should not be taken lightly. If ignored, symptoms can escalate to clouds of black or red spots in the visual field, or even sudden blackouts due to bleeding into the eye.
Fortunately, there are eye checks that can detect this problem before the symptoms are noticeable. A painless dilated eye exam, in which your eye doctor uses eye drops to widen the pupils so they can look at the back of the eye7 (where the retina is).
Something so simple can save your vision. And a little awareness goes a long way in combating preventable vision loss.
The best way to fight any disease is to build knowledge about it. Take control of your health and your vision. Especially if you or your loved ones are diagnosed with diabetes, you can learn more about diabetic retinopathy by following News18.com for more updates on the Netra Suraksha initiative. Also do the online Diabetic Retinopathy Self-Check to see if you need to see your doctor.
The best thing you can do to minimize your personal risk is to carefully follow the diabetes management plan prepared by your doctor. The simplest recommendation is to have your eyes tested for diabetic retinopathy once a year – a simple, convenient, painless test that can have a huge positive impact on your quality of life and that of your family. Do not hesitate and do not believe that you are invulnerable.
- https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/diabetes-in-india[U1] Dec 10, 2021.
- https://www.nei.nih.gov/about/news-and-events/news/glaucoma-silent-thief-begins-tell-its-secrets December 17, 2021
- https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/cataract December 17, 2021
- https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/diabetic-retinopathy December 10, 2021
- Balasubramaniyan N, Ganesh KS, Ramesh BK, Subitha L. Eye effects awareness and practices in people with diabetes in rural Tamil Nadu, India. Afri Health Science. 2016;16(1):210-217.
- https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/27/suppl_1/s84 December 17, 2021
- https://youtu.be/nmMBudzi4zc Dec 29, 2021
Read all the Latest News, Breaking News and Coronavirus News here.