Do the NetraSuraksha Online Self Check Up here.
Diabetes in India is undeniably on the rise. The International Diabetes Federation’s Atlas 2021 estimates that as of 2021 there will be approximately 74 million cases of diabetes among the adult population of India. She also predicts that this number will rise to 93 million by 2030 and 124 million by 2045.
One of the most feared complications of diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. A survey conducted in 21 Indian districts by AIIMS, University of Hyderabad and the National Program for Control of Blindness and Visual Impairment found that as many as 17% of patients with diabetes suffer from retinopathy.1. Diabetic retinopathy is a tricky disease. In the early stages there are no discernible symptoms – some people find they have trouble reading, but it comes and goes. In later stages, blood vessels in the retina begin to bleed, causing floating spots and, in some extreme cases, total loss of vision2.
According to the National Eye Institute (part of the US National Institutes of Health)2Diabetes causes damage to blood vessels throughout the body. When blood vessels in the eyes are damaged, they leak or bleed. Some blood vessels get clogged. Diabetic retinopathy can also lead to diabetic macular edema – a condition that affects 1 in 15 patients with diabetes and leads to blurred vision. Diabetic retinopathy can also cause abnormal blood vessels to grow out of the retina, blocking fluid drainage from the eye. This causes a type of glaucoma, which leads to blindness.
When we crack the numbers here, we’re looking at an estimated 12.5 million people who could be suffering from diabetic retinopathy in 2021 alone.
While these numbers are scary, the disease itself isn’t insurmountable. In fact, diabetic retinopathy is completely preventable with regular eye tests and some lifestyle changes. Systematic screening has been introduced in several countries. In the UK, diabetic retinopathy is no longer the leading cause of blindness in the workforce. In Wales, the number of new visual impairment certifications has decreased by 40-50% in just 8 years since the introduction of regular screening³.
This is exactly why Network18 de ‘Netra Suraksha’ – India against diabetes initiative, in partnership with Novartis, that aims to raise awareness and build effective partnerships with the Indian medical community, think tanks and policy makers to better fight this disease. The initiative kicked off on November 27, 2021, with a series of roundtables, which you can watch on YouTube, News18.com and Facebook. The talks focus on detection, timely prevention and available treatments. Two more roundtable discussions will follow in the coming weeks. We will use explainer videos and articles to highlight different aspects of the disease and hopefully inspire patients with diabetes to take actions for their own benefit.
By breaking the news and raising awareness about the ease with which this disease can be managed, we hope to do our part to tame these terrifying numbers.
This is where you come in. If you live in urban India today, someone in your circle of friends, colleagues and loved ones is a patient with diabetes. Talk to them about this initiative (or share this article!), and ask when their eyes were last tested. If it’s been more than a few months, ask them to do a Diabetic Retinopathy Self-Check here and see their doctor for a simple, painless eye test.
While you’re at it, test yourself too. According to the International Diabetes Federation’s Atlas 2021, there are 39.3 million people in India who have not been diagnosed with diabetes3. Don’t let yourself become another statistic. Follow News18.com for more updates on the Netra Suraksha initiative and get ready to join India’s fight against diabetic retinopathy.
- National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey 2015-2019, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. dr. Rajendra Prasad Center for Ophthalmic Sciences, AIIMS, New Delhi
- IDF Atlas, International Diabetes Federation, 10e edition, 2021
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