Indian Medical Association Hosts a Virtual Conclave Illustrating the Burden of Diabetic Retinopathy In West Bengal

-The Indian Medical Association hosted a virtual conclave on Diabetic Retinopathy burden in West Bengal, attended by the Government of Bengal’s Directors of Health Services and Medical Education

-Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) is a chronic, progressive retinal diseases; if untreated, can progress to irreversible vision loss

  • Routine screening for diabetics is key to enabling timely diagnosis and disease management.

Kolkata, September 27, 2021: Highlighting the need to address the urgent, rising burden of diabetic retinopathy in West Bengal, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) today hosted a virtual conclave on ‘Bridging the Missing Link between Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy.’ The Government of Bengal’s Director of Health Services, Dr. Ajoy Chakraborty, and Director of Medical Education, Dr. Debashish Bhattacharyya, graced the event as Guests of Honour. Other chairpersons at the event included representatives of the IMA, West Bengal Medical Council and Ophthalmology Society of West Bengal, with various prominent medical experts forming part of the panel discussions.

The conclave illustrated the rising prevalence of diabetic retinopathy, with the discussion covering key themes including recent advancements in diabetic retinopathy care, the current status, challenges and next steps on the approach to managing eye complications in diabetes, and current provisions under the government of West Bengal’s flagship scheme, Swasthy Sathi. The Conclave was held ahead of World Retina Day on September 29th.

Dr. Mausumi De Banerjee, Hony. Secretary, IMA Calcutta Branch said, “We are glad to have the Director of Health Services, Director of Medical Education, alongside our President Dr. Nirmal Maji expressing their desire for more outreach programs for developing general awareness to prevent Diabetic Retinopathy. Diabetes and Diabetic retinopathy are a big problem in the country, as its now increasingly affecting the young population. India is currently seeing the tip of the iceberg which can extrapolate in a few years in case we do not raise more awareness around retinal health, regular check-ups and treatment adherence. As we host this conclave with the Ophthalmology Society West Bengal, we want people across West Bengal and the country to know the guidelines, technology advancements, possible treatments, benefits that can be availed, to solve this multidisciplinary problem.”

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., Diabetic Retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease, and a complication of this is Diabetic Macular Edema (DME), which affects the back of the eye (the retina). DME is a chronic, progressive retinal disease that can be effectively managed with early detection and treatment adherence.

Dr. Asim Ghosh, Director, Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, Medical College Bengal commented, “Today, the probability of one suffering from Diabetic Retinopathy has increased, as people do not have control over their blood sugar levels, making India the capital of diabetes. In addition, sedentary work lifestyles, increase in hypertension and increase stress levels have led to increase in blood sugar. We as doctors are trying our best to make people aware of the severity of this diseases that can even cause blindness if not taken proper care and treatment adherence. The Government of West Bengal is also aiding the less fortunate with free injections to treat the condition Diabetic Retinopathy.”

The significant rise of diabetes in India, with the nation expected to have the second highest cases of diabetes in the world by 2040, highlights the burden of retinal disease, and the risk of blindness it poses. Moreover, COVID further disrupted retinal disease care in India, with some centers reported as high as a 98.7% decrease in patients visiting clinics due to limited hospital infrastructure and public transportation. Additionally, several patients sought help at advanced stages of the disease, wherein they were unresponsive to treatment. Overcoming barriers to care is key to effectively managing the condition.

Understanding the Signs and Symptoms

Examination of the eye requires the patient to visit the doctor physically, considering the pandemic, patients are afraid to visit a clinic or even follow up. With delayed diagnosis, effective treatment outcome become difficult, even leading to blindness that cannot be reversed.

Considering the progressive nature of DME, understanding symptoms and promptly consulting a doctor in case of any worrying signs if vital.

Treatment Adherence

DME treatment options vary, ranging from anti-VEGF injections, lasers, implants and surgery, and combination therapy. Treatment adherence is a vital determinants of effective therapy outcomes. Given the progressive nature of the retinal diseases, strict adherence to treatment and follow-ups is critical. However, non-adherence is a significant barrier to care to overcome. Additionally, In the case of DME, simultaneously managing one’s diabetes is also essential.

Raising awareness on the growing, preventable burden of retinal diseases and the urgent need to encourage regular eye screenings amongst vulnerable populations can drive timely care in the form of early diagnosis and disease management.

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