For your Eyes Only – Retinal Diseases, one of the leading causes of Chronic Blindness: Experts

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Dr. Siddharth Ghosh, Ophthalmologist and Eye (2)
Dr. Siddharth Ghosh, Ophthalmologist and Eye (2)

Retinal Diseases, one of the leading causes of Chronic Blindness: Experts

Ø  Age-related Macular Degeneration constitutes 8.7% of blindness in the world

Ø  Diabetic Retinopathy constitutes 4.8% of blindness in the world

28th June 2018; KolkataThe blind population in India is estimated to rise to 15 million by 2020[3]. While diseases related to the cornea (front of the eye) are commonly known, diseases related to the retina (back of the eye) are not easily recognised. Retinal diseases account for a significant share of the vision loss burden, compared to other eye-related diseases that can cause blindness.

Of the various retinal disorders, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic macular edema (DME) are two progressive diseases that causes loss of vision. AMD and DME can be effectively managed if patients are diagnosed in a timely manner. Therefore, it is important to understand the underlying symptoms associated with the diseases to identify the disease at an early stage.

Understanding Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

According to Dr. Siddharth Ghosh, Ophthalmologist and Eye Surgeon, Head of the Department of Ophthalmology at the GD Hospital and Diabetes Institute at Kolkata, Retina is that part of the eye where the final vision is formed. If the retina is damaged, the vision is automatically affected.Retinal diseases like Age-related Macular Degeneration and Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) are progressive diseases and can lead to irreversible vision loss].”

He added, “AMD is a progressive eye condition that is characterized by the gradual deterioration of the macula (part of retina, responsible for central vision). It is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss among the elderly people. It contributes to 8.7% of blindness in the world. Whereaspeople suffering from diabetes has 25 times more risk of losing vision compared to the rest of the population due to DME. This happens when damaged blood vessels leak in the macula causing it to swell, this creates visibility problem.”

Common signs and symptoms

The symptoms of retinal diseases may vary depending on the type of retinal disorder. However, most of the symptoms overlap each other or are common in various diseases. For example:

  • 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[10]

Timely diagnosis & Treatment Protocol

Dr. Raja Narayanan, Hon. Secretary of VRSI & Head of Clinical Research, L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, “Patients need to be alert in recognizing early signs and symptoms of retinal diseases. Most often, the symptoms of AMD are confused with old age. Diabetics are advised to visit an ophthalmologist/retinologist every six months, as they are at a higher risk of developing diabetic retinopathy[11]. Early detection of AMD and DME increases the possibility of preventing vision loss.[12].”

Today, there are treatments available that can slow or halt disease progression. Some of the treatment options available in India include laser photocoagulation, anti-VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor) injections and combination therapy which includes laser and anti-VEGF treatment. [13]