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In India, Talks About Diabetic Retinopathy Echo Internationally

SriniVas Sadda, MD
President & Chief Scientific Officer

Diabetes is epidemic in India, and soon, the country will be home to the largest diabetic population in the world.
The concomitant increase in cases of diabetic retinopathy is alarming, making it one of the leading causes of blindness in the country. It seems that soon, the US will face similar issues. Globally, the implications for our work are enormous.

Poor diet and high blood sugars lead to damage to retinal blood vessels, and the damage is irreversible. But, the damage is preventable. So early detection and management of the disease is critical, nowhere more so than in India today. In Chennai, India over the summer, I met with ophthalmologists who gathered to hear experts from their country, the US, and worldwide to discuss and debate the latest developments in how to approach and treat patients and diabetic retinopathy.

Fortunately, many researchers, including Dr. Micheal Ip, recently appointed medical director of the Doheny Image Reading Center, are focused on accelerating the research in this area. But the meetings in India this summer also reminded me how critical screening is to the diagnosing and timely treatment of this disease.

Diabetics who also have diabetic retinopathy typically are asymptomatic. That means nothing seems “wrong” with their vision, so they never have it checked out. Even here in Los Angeles, fewer than 2% of diabetics are screened in some communities. To truly combat this disease, we need to begin by improving those numbers.

The conversation we had in India matters there, but it also matters here, and everywhere else in the world where we face questions of the impact of our modern diet on health and eye health.

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