Fighting the good fight – India against Diabetic Retinopathy


Take the NetraSuraksha Online Self Check Up here.

Diabetes in India is unarguably on the rise. The International Diabetes Federation Atlas 2021 estimated that there are roughly 74 million cases of diabetes in the adult population of India as of 2021. It also predicts that this number will climb to 93 million in 2030 and 124 million in 2045.

One of the most dreaded complications of diabetes is Diabetic Retinopathy. A survey conducted in 21 Indian districts by AIIMS, University of Hyderabad and the National Programme for Control of Blindness and Visual Impairment has revealed that as many as 17% of patients with diabetes suffer from Retinopathy1. Diabetic Retinopathy is a tricky disease. In the early stages, there are no discernible symptoms – some people notice they have trouble reading, but it comes and goes. At later stages, blood vessels in the retina begin to bleed, creating floating spots, and in some extreme cases, total loss of vision2.

According to the National Eye Institute (part of the US National Institutes of Health)2, Diabetes causes damage to blood vessels all over the body. When blood vessels in the eyes are damaged, they leak or bleed. Some blood vessels get blocked. Diabetic Retinopathy can also lead to Diabetic Macular Edema – a condition that happens to 1 in 15 patients with diabetes and leads to blurry vision. Diabetic Retinopathy can also cause abnormal blood vessels to grow out of the retina, blocking fluid draining from the eye. This causes a type of glaucoma, which leads to blindness.

If we crunch the numbers here, we’re looking at an estimated 12.5 million people who could suffer from Diabetic Retinopathy in 2021 alone.

While these numbers are scary, the disease itself isn’t insurmountable. Diabetic Retinopathy is, in fact, wholly preventable through regular eye testing, and some lifestyle modifications. Systematic screening has been adopted in several countries. In the United Kingdom, Diabetic Retinopathy is no longer the leading cause of blindness in the working-age population. In fact, in Wales, the incidence of new certifications for visual impairment have reduced between 40-50% in just 8 years since the implementation of regular screening³.

This is precisely why Network18 has launched the ‘Netra Suraksha’ – India Against Diabetes initiative, in association with Novartis, which aims to increase awareness, and build effective partnerships with the Indian medical community, think tanks and policymakers to better combat this disease. The initiative kicked off on Nov 27, 2021, with a series of round table discussions, you can watch them on YouTube, and Facebook. The conversations focus on detection, timely prevention and available treatments. This will be followed by 2 more roundtable sessions in the coming weeks. We’ll use explainer videos and articles to illuminate various aspects of the disease, and hopefully, inspire patients with diabetes to take actions in their own favour.

By getting the word out there, and by building awareness about the ease with which this disease can be managed, we’re hoping to do our bit to tame these scary numbers down to size.

This is where you come in. Today, if you live in urban India, then someone in your circle of friends, colleagues and loved ones is a patient with diabetes. Talk to them about this initiative (or share this article!), and ask them when they’ve had their eyes tested last. If it’s been more than a few months, request them to take a Diabetic Retinopathy Self Check-Up here and to visit their doctor for a simple, painless eye test.

While you’re at it, test yourself too. According to the International Diabetes Federation Atlas 2021, there are 39.3 million people in India, who are undiagnosed patients with diabetes3. Don’t let yourself become another statistic. Follow for more updates about the Netra Suraksha initiative, and prepare to involve yourself in India’s fight against Diabetic Retinopathy.


  1. National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey 2015-2019, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. Dr Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences, AIIMS, New Delhi
  3. IDF Atlas, International Diabetes Federation, 10th edition, 2021

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