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Covid-19 has significantly disrupted access to timely care for a lot of medical conditions, including retinal diseases. Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Progressive Retinal Atrophy, are two common retinal diseases that are the leading causes of vision loss and blindness worldwide. Both the disorders are chronic and progressive retinal diseases that can be effectively managed with early detection and treatment adherence.
During the pandemic, we have all been exposed to high levels of screen-time which has been affecting our eye health gravely. People have complained of vision problems, blurry vision, dry eyes, and headaches — all due to an increase in screen time. Working from home has taken a severe toll on the retinal health of many young Indians, and it is necessary to take care of one’s eyesight and vision for good retinal well-being in old age.
Many ophthalmologists in India have been unable to see patients over the last year, with centres in India reporting as high as a 98.7% decrease in patients visiting clinics due to limited hospital infrastructure and public transportation. In most cases only those with severe conditions followed through with their treatment protocol. Additionally, several patients sought help at advanced stages, wherein they were unresponsive to treatment.
Given the size of the population, this highlights the significant disease burden and risk of blindness in India.
Dr Ajay Dudani, CEO Vitreoretinal Surgeon, Mumbai retina centre, tells HealthShots, “Retinal disease needs to be identified early on. However, the pandemic has led to delays in screenings as well as routine retina care. 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.”
One must be alert and visit an ophthalmologist or a retina specialist immediately in case of any of these symptoms:
Dr Dudani adds, “Today, treatment for retina care has been further streamlined, with the government showcasing its support for the cause of retinal disease management. The Maharashtra Government has introduced a health scheme, the Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana (MJPJAY) where retinal surgeries and injections are covered by the government for patients under the poverty line.”
Treatment options vary, ranging from eye drops to regular medications, anti-VEGF injections, lasers, implants and surgery, and combination therapy. Compliance or treatment adherence are vital determinants of effective therapy outcomes. Given the progressive nature of retinal diseases, strict adherence to treatment and follow-ups is critical. Insurance reimbursement for anti-VEGF injections to cover expenses further support the patients and enhance treatment compliance.