Eye Care Tips: Preventative Steps to Take Care of Retinal Health | Health

ByMartha R. Camara

Sep 19, 2022

The retina is a layer of tissue at the back of your eye that detects light and sends images to your brain. At the center of this nerve tissue is the macula which provides the central, sharp vision needed to read, drive and see fine detail. Unhealthy retinas are unable to send clear signals to your brain, which can lead to vision loss or impairment. It is therefore important to take important steps to protect retinal health.

Progressive retinal diseases can affect a person at an early age, and due to a lack of awareness, these diseases are only reported once individuals have started seeing severe symptoms. Progressive diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy (DR) can lead to significant loss or impairment of vision if not managed precisely and at the right time, because if the AMD affects central vision and is more common in older people. DR causes permanent blindness or loss of vision in diabetics by damaging retinal blood vessels.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Shobhit Chawla, Medical Director and Chief Vitreoretin Consultant at Prakash Netra Kendr in Lucknow, said: “Eye diseases are common and unfortunately go unnoticed for a long time, due to lack of awareness about their implications. India being the capital of diabetes, nearly 30% of the population suffers from diabetic retinopathy, of which about 10-12% suffer from 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 detect eye diseases at an early stage to prevent vision loss. Annual and routine eye screening, especially for people with diabetes and the elderly, is imperative to enable prompt care and prevent vision loss.

Self-prevention measures

A healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of eye health problems. According to the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) – foods containing zinc, copper, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene have the potential to reduce the risk by 25% age-related decline in eye health. Also, these days, it’s important to protect the 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 disease, modern therapies can reduce the risk of blindness in proliferative retinopathy and diabetic macular disease by approximately 98%2. Early detection and treatment are key to delaying or avoiding progressive retinal disease.

Dr. Mahipal Sachdev, Professor of Ophthalmology, Senior Consultant, President and Medical Director, suggested, “When it comes to retinal health, it’s important to instill preventative measures early on. People over 50 should have regular dilated ophthalmic exams. One can also look at an Amsler grid – a pattern of straight lines that looks like a checkerboard to check your vision. If the lines look wavy to you or if some of them are missing, it could be a sign of macular degeneration. The risk factors associated with AMD are advanced age, genetic factors, smoking. Diabetic retinopathy requires strict blood sugar and blood pressure control as this prevents disease progression. In more advanced cases, treatment is recommended to stop diabetic retinopathy damage, prevent vision loss, and potentially restore vision.

Know your genes

According to Indian Journal of Ophthalmology, around 2 million people worldwide suffer from gene-related, inherited or acquired retinal diseases. Genetic predisposition influences approximately 30-40% of the likelihood of age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

Dr Chaitra Jayadev, Head of Vitreoretinal Services at Narayana Nethralaya Eye Institute in Bangalore, pointed out: “DR and AMD have a hereditary tendency; it depends on his race, geographical location and lifestyle. There are approximately 250 various genes known to cause inherited retinal diseases. A screening test or examination is necessary initially to determine if a genetic disease is present in the family. If predisposing factors are identified, regular monitoring is necessary for early detection and prompt treatment.

Ignoring retinal health can not only cause severe discomfort, but also lead to permanent blindness. If you have a family history of eye diseases, be sure to visit the eye doctor regularly and combine it with discipline to continue treatment and lead a healthy life.