The retina is a layer of tissue in the back of your eye that senses light and sends images to your brain and in the center of this nerve tissue is the macula which provides sharp, central vision needed for reading, driving and seeing fine detail. Unhealthy retinas are not capable of sending clear signals to your brain which can result in vision loss or impairment therefore, it is important for one to take significant measure to protect retinal health.
Progressive retinal diseases can affect one at an early age and owing to lack of awareness, these diseases are only flagged off once individuals started seeing serious symptoms. Progressive diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy (DR) can lead to significant vision loss or impairment if not managed accurately and at the right time since while AMD affects the central vision and is more common in the aged, DR causes permanent blindness or vision loss in diabetics by damaging retinal blood vessels.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Shobhit Chawla, Medical Director and Chief Vitreoretinal Consultant at Prakash Netra Kendr in Lucknow, shared, “Eye diseases are common and unfortunately go unnoticed for a long time, owing to the lack of awareness around their implications. With India being the diabetes capital, almost 30% of the population suffers from diabetic retinopathy of which ~10-12% have sight-threatening conditions like macular edema or proliferative diabetic retinopathy. Therefore, it is important to undertake comprehensive dilated eye exams by an optometrist or ophthalmologist to find eye diseases in the early stages to prevent vision loss. An annual, routine eye screening especially for those with diabetes and the elderly population is imperative to enable prompt care and prevent vision loss.”
Self preventive measures
A lifestyle which is healthy can reduce the risk of eye health problems significantly. As per Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) — foods with zinc, copper, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene has the potential to reduce the risk of age-related decline in eye health by 25%. Additionally, in today’s day it is important to protect eyes from computer-related eye strain by looking away every 20 minutes at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds.
If the eyes are treated early in the condition, modern therapies can minimize the risk of blindness in proliferative retinopathy and diabetic macular disease by approximately 98%2. Early detection and treatment are critical for postponing or avoiding progressive retinal diseases.
Dr Mahipal Sachdev, Professor in Ophthalmology, Senior Consultant, Chairman and Medical Director, suggested, “When it comes to retinal health, it is important to inculcate preventive measures from the beginning. People above the age of 50 years should get regular dilated ophthalmic examinations done. One can also look at an Amsler grid — a pattern of straight lines that’s like a checkerboard to check your vision. If the lines appear wavy to you or some of them are missing, it could be a sign of macular degeneration. The risk factors associated with ARMD are advancing age, genetic factors, smoking. In case of Diabetic retinopathy, one must strictly control blood sugar and blood pressure levels as that prevents the progression of the disease. In more advance cases, treatment is recommended to stop the damage of diabetic retinopathy, prevent vision loss and potentially restore vision.”
Know your genes
According to Indian Journal of Ophthalmology, ~2 million people worldwide suffer from gene-related retinal diseases, inherited or acquired. Genetic predisposition influences about 30-40% of the likelihood for both age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.
Dr Chaitra Jayadev, Chief of Vitreo-Retinal Services at Narayana Nethralaya Eye Institute in Bangalore, highlighted, “DR and AMD do have a hereditary tendency; this depends on one’s race, geographical location, and lifestyle. There are ~250 varied genes known to cause inherited retinal diseases. A screening test or examination is needed initially to determine whether a genetic condition runs in the family. If predisposing factors are identified, a regular follow up is required for early detection and timely treatment.”
Ignoring retinal health can not only cause severe discomfort but it can also cause permanent blindness. If you have a family history of eye diseases, make sure you consult the ophthalmologist regularly, and combine it with the discipline to continue treatment and lead a healthy life.