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Do you often rub your eyes to gain a clearer view, have a blurry vision, feel dizzy or witness floating spots in your field of vision? You could be suffering from a retinal disease.
While we do hear a lot about general eye health, retinal health is also an important aspect. There are two most common retinal diseases which are both chronic and progressive:
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), which affects people aged 50 and older, affects the macula, a part of the retina situated at the back of the eye. This mainly impacts an individual’s central vision, as well as their eye for colour and fine details.
This is a complication of diabetic retinopathy, affecting the back of the eye (the retina). An estimated 17.6% to 28.9% of diabetics suffer from diabetic retinopathy in India, largely affecting India’s working population, which further translates to productivity and economic losses.
The retinal disease burden in India is on a worrying rise, notes Dr. Raja Narayanan, Director and Network Head, Clinical Research at L V Prasad Eye Institute.
“While DME is preventable by effectively managing one’s diabetes and controlling sugar levels, wet AMD is not completely preventable. However, these retinal diseases can both be prolonged and managed with the right treatment adherence. Of the roughly 7 crore patients with diabetes in India, as many as 10% to 20% go on to develop diabetic retinopathy. This mainly affects the working-age population, leading to productivity and economic losses,” Dr Narayanan adds.
Understanding the signs and symptoms of retinal diseases like DME and wet AMD is key to identifying problems at the onset and seeking care promptly. Common signs and symptoms include:
• 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
It is also important to note that in its early stages, especially with DME, it may not be easy to recognize symptoms. Thus, while keeping an eye out for any warning signs, it is also important, particularly for diabetics, to undergo regular eye screening.
As both AMD and DME are progressive diseases, early diagnosis is a key need of the hour. Delayed diagnosis can result in a number of problems, exacerbating the condition and resulting in further complications, such as preventable but irreversible blindness.
Retinal diseases need to be identified early on. However, the pandemic has led to delays in screenings as well as routine retina care, according to Dr Ajay Dudani, CEO Vitreoretinal Surgeon, Mumbai Retina Centre.
“This has compounded the problem, with patients coming to us at more advanced stages of the disease. Moreover, work-from-home has led to sedentary lifestyles, worsened diet and stress levels, which further contribute to health issues. Today, we are working towards raising awareness, and scaling technology solutions to simplify the screening process.”
There are a number of treatment options for AMD and DME, including anti-VEGF injections, laser, surgery or combination therapy. There are also a number of lifestyle modifications that can be made to enable a healthier daily routine, including engaging in regular physical activity and smoking cessation. With DME patients, disease management can look slightly different. In addition to treatment for the retinal disease, managing and monitoring one’s diabetes is a critical component of limiting further disease progression.
Compliance or treatment adherence are necessary to enable good therapy outcomes. Given the progressive nature of the retinal diseases, strict adherence to treatment, follow-ups, as well as to lifestyle changes, is critical. Simultaneously, it is also important to learn to cope with retinal diseases, which can be worrying, especially at the early stages of one’s diagnosis.
AMD and DME can affect overall mental health, which is why actions taken to address these effects are needed alongside treatment of the disease. By seeking help and resources to better understand the condition and how you can keep it in control, staying engaged with the world and leaning on family, friends as well as others in the patient community, an individual’s quality of life can be improved, preventing further problems.
Early detection for retinal diseases is key. In this way, individuals can seek effective treatment that best suits their condition instead of presenting with diseases at an advanced stage, when their options for prevention and delaying disease progression become limited.