Towards reducing diabetic-related blindness

two men performing eye testing while showing eye curvature exam results on screen

Working with more than 1,800 patients in the UK, Thailand, Nepal, China and India, we have identified significant factors that have a negative impact on the control of diabetes, leading to a higher risk of blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of blindness. Significant risk factors for diabetic retinopathy include the patient’s age, duration of diabetes and control. While it is not possible to have much influence on age and duration, there is a lot we can do about the control of diabetes. It is also very important that patients attend screening for retinopathy, even if they appear to have good vision.

In India, with support from the College of Optometrists and Lions Club International, we are collaborating with Sankhara Nethralaya Eye Hospital in Chennai to improve attendance for retinal screening. With support from the Global Research Fund, a culturally-appropriate diabetic intervention to reduce the risk of retinopathy has been set up.

In China, working with Second Affiliated Medical College in Hangzou, we have identified factors that affect diabetic retinopathy.

In Thailand, with the support of the Ministry of Public Health, we aim to increase retinal screening in five regions of the country. Support from the Seneca Foundation has let us set up a programme to improve the control of diabetes through increased physical activity.

Different cultural factors influence self-help and ultimately good control of diabetes. Our research also demonstrates that different barriers for diabetic control exist in different demographics (eg age, literacy and gender) and that a ‘one size fits all intervention’ would not work efficiently.

In Nepal we collaborate with Gandaki Medical College and Teaching Hospital in Pokhara on a number of projects. These include:

  • a multidisciplinary intervention tool to control diabetes and its eye complications
  • factors influencing diabetes and sight-threatening retinopathy in retired British Gurkhas
  • the relationship between vitamin D, dry eye and diabetic retinopathy in people living in high and low altitudes in Nepal.

These projects are underpinned by own research, as well as Cochrane Reviews and reports from the World Health Organization.

Group of people, including ARU researchers, pictured in Nepal

We held the first multidisciplinary workshop for professionals involved in the management of diabetes and eye complications in Pokhara on 29-30 October 2018. This saw the development of a framework for a culturally-appropriate, multidisciplinary intervention to control diabetes and its eye complications. The project is funded by Global Challenges Research Fund. We hope that the intervention tool will have impact on clinicians and policy makers, and help to reduce the burden of diabetes and its sight-threatening complications in Nepal.

Professor Shahina Pardhan
Dr Raju Sapkota