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Mumbai: Locals unaware of diabetic retinopathy in Dharavi, reveals study

Updated on: 01 March,2023 05:37 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Suraj Pandey |

Study finds people in area unaware of diabetic retinopathy, even after counselling, 43 per cent did not realise that they must attend screening

Mumbai: Locals unaware of diabetic retinopathy in Dharavi, reveals study

Diabetics must get their eyes screened regularly. Representation pic

Diabetes is a lifestyle disease that can lead to diabetic retinopathy (DR). However, some people are not aware of this. A study (part of a longer, multiple issues study) done by Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital in the slums of Dharavi, recently published in the Indian Journal of Opthalmology, revealed that only 30 per cent of the people were aware that diabetes can affect the eyes. Even after counselling, 43 per cent of the people did not realise that they must go for DR screening. However, post-counselling and awareness, an increase in knowledge was seen among the people.

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication that affects the eyes. It is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina). At first, diabetic retinopathy might have no symptoms or only mild vision problems. But it can lead to blindness.

The study was conducted by Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital to assess the impact of individual counselling on the knowledge and attitudes of Type 2 diabetics regarding diabetic retinopathy. In the Dharavi slums a total of 1,718 participants' survey responses were collected before and after the counselling sessions in the study. Of these, 931 (over 51.2 per cent) were female and 787 (49.8 per cent) were male. At least 833 (45.5 per cent) had Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus for between 1 and 5 years, while 646 (37.6 per cent) had T2DM for at least 5 years. During the survey, 299 (17.4 per cent) screened positive for DR.

The study revealed that before counselling only 530 (30.8 per cent) participants were aware that diabetes can affect the vision. About 38.3 per cent of respondents were willing to undergo DR screening which is a must for people who are suffering from diabetes.

Speaking to mid-day, one of the authors of the study, Dr Sundaram Natarajan from Aditya Jyot Hospital (a unit of Dr Agarwal’s Eye Hospital) said, “There is a huge gap in knowledge in the masses. People still don’t know that diabetes can affect vision and that the loss of vision is preventable by timely intervention. Awareness programmes need to be started by the government with regular eye screening of all diabetics. The Kamala Sundaram Foundation is trying to do that by holding eye screening for diabetics treated at the municipal dispensary (Aapla Dawakhana).” Interestingly, even after counselling, 43 per cent of the people didn't realise that they must go for DR screening.

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Dr Natarajan said, “The reason patients are not willing to undergo screening are varied. First, the cost involved and loss of wages. The second 
reason is they are unaware of the infrastructure—which doctor/hospital to go to—available for screening. Third, due to unawareness about severe vision loss, which diabetes can cause.”

He further added, “A person with diabetes should undergo eye screening as soon as they are diagnosed and then once yearly. If diabetic retinopathy is detected, then follow-up should be as per the doctor's advice.”

After the counselling sessions conducted by the hospital, there was quite an interesting change in the attitude and knowledge among the participants. Before counselling, only 30.8 per cent of people were aware that diabetes can affect the eyes which increased to 90.4 per cent. Participants showed a greater understanding that an eye examination should be conducted as soon as possible after the diagnosis of diabetes from 17.1 per cent to 93.2 per cent after the counselling.

Senior ophthalmologist and surgeon Dr Shashi Kapoor said, “When an individual is detected with diabetes the doctor treating him needs to make him aware that 
the condition can also affect vision and may lead to loss of vision too. Doctors must tell the patients to go for eye screening once a year. So doctors play a major role in creating awareness.”

No. of participants in the study

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