India is home to the world’s largest number of blind people – The Times of India-Oct 11, 2007.
The number of blind persons in India in 2000 was estimated to be 18.7 million . The projected number of blind persons in India would increase to 24.1 million in 2020.
The top 3 causes of blindness are
- Cataract (62.6%),
- Refractive Error (19.70%) and
- Glaucoma (5.80%)
A cataract is clouding of the lens of the eye, due to a clumping of the protein elements of the lens or a discoloration that occurs with age, excessive sunlight exposure, diabetes, under nutrition, and other risk factors.
The most common types of refractive errors are myopia, hyperopia, presbyopia, and astigmatism. Myopia (nearsightedness) is a condition where objects up close appear clearly, while objects far away appear blurry. With myopia, light comes to focus in front of the retina instead of on the retina. Presbyopia is an age-related condition in which the ability to focus up close becomes more difficult. As the eye ages, the lens can no longer change shape enough to allow the eye to focus close objects clearly.
Glaucoma is the result of damage to the optic nerve. As this nerve gradually deteriorates, blind spots develop in our visual field. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure are risk factors for glaucoma.
In addition to these, diabetes mellitus is a major cause of avoidable blindness in both the developing and the developed countries since diabetic retinopathy is a secondary complication of diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is the result of damage to the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina due to persistently high uncontrolled blood sugars. The injured blood vessels leak blood and other fluids that cause swelling of retinal tissue and clouding of vision. There is a direct correlation between the frequency and severity of diabetic retinopathy and the duration of Diabetes Mellitus.
This World Sight day , make sure to get your vision checked. If you are undergoing diabetes treatment for more than 5 years then it is even more important to get a thorough check done.
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Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.