The drastically increasing diabetic population worldwide is worrisome for health experts. Diabetes brings these people more to the risk of certain diseases such as eye diseases. The retina specialists advise that if these diseases are detected at an early stage, it is possible to treat retinopathy which further reduces the risk of complete vision loss.
Diabetic eye disease or diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye-related medical condition in diabetic patients. It happens when the retina of the eyes is damaged in diabetic patients. When the blood sugar level gets higher, it blocks the blood vessels in the retina and damages it.
The retina is the inner part of each eye that senses light and sends signals to the brain to decode this light and hence help in vision creation. When the retina is damaged, nonfunctioning or abnormally functioning blood vessels can cause vision problems.
Dr. Raba Thapa who is a retina specialist and works at as associate professor at Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology (TIO), says that
“Among 100 patients visiting the Retinopathy Department at Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, at least 50 of them have diabetic retinopathy.”
She further added that
“Patients visit hospitals only when they have eye problems. However, diabetic retinopathy often has no symptoms at an early stage. Blurred vision, fluctuating vision, swelling of the retina are some of the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy that manifest at a later stage. The only way to prevent complications of diabetic retinopathy is early screening. Anyone diagnosed with diabetes must get their retina tested immediately,”
The risk of diabetes increase in people who are in their middle ages, live a sedentary life and have almost no physical activity along with unhealthy dietary choices. Doctors recommend that all those who are diagnosed with diabetes should frequently get checked for retinal damage. Typically, a retina exam should take place once a year by any certified ophthalmologist.
Dr. Thapa works at Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, Nepal where she recently worked on a project titled; “Integration of Diabetic Retinopathy Eye Care Services within Comprehensive Diabetes Management of General Public Health System in Nepal (2016-2019).”
During a meeting on this project’s presentation, it was discussed that this project has helped to design “national guidelines for the management of diabetic retinopathy in Nepal”.
Almost all leading health practitioners in the country were given the training to test diabetic people for retinopathy. As per an estimate, for this project, more than 20,000 persons were checked for diabetic retinopathy in different cities of Nepal.
The project also initiated awareness on diabetic retinopathy for common people as well as medical practitioner. Furthermore, this project also distributed specialized medical equipment to health centers all across the country for diabetic retinopathy diagnosis and treatment.
Nepal Health Research Council report ranks diabetes mellitus as number two among all non-communicable diseases (8.5 percent). It is second to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (11.7 percent) and together these two are two leading diseases that couldn’t be transmitted from one person to another, yet affect millions of people. Other examples of non-communicable diseases (NCD) include heart diseases, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc.
The research council further adds that people who are in their middle ages are at a higher risk of diabetes mellitus. Dr. Thapa shares that “People with anemia, uncontrolled blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and those with smoking and drinking habits should get their eyes tested regularly.”