Study estimates one in five people with diabetes in India are visually impaired

Of the 101 million people in India with diabetes, 21 million people have vision impairment – including 2.4 million people who are blind

An electronic glucose monitor, hypodermic needle and white paper strips with metallic ends rest on a white table
Pixabay/Steve Buissinne

A new study published in The Lancet Global Health has estimated India’s national prevalence of vision impairment in people with diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes.

Scientists examined data from a national survey of 42,147 Indian adults, aged 40 or older.

Within the data set, 5689 had known diabetes and 2221 had diabetes, but were undiagnosed.

The researchers found that 21.1% of survey participants with diabetes had visual impairment and 2.4% were blind.

Extrapolating these findings to the national population, they estimated that 21 million adults aged 40 years and older with known or undiagnosed diabetes have vision impairment, while 2.4 million people are blind.

The researchers found that the rate of vision impairment and blindness was comparable between those with diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes.

They highlighted that cataract surgery initiatives and providing refractive correction to people with diabetes experiencing economic deprivation is likely to have a positive effect on the rate of visual impairment in this population.

“Cataract is a more common cause of vision impairment and blindness than is diabetic retinopathy in people with diabetes. Therefore, reducing the cataract burden should remain a priority in people with diabetes, especially in those aged 65 years and older,” the researchers shared.

The international research team included UK scientists from University College London’s Institute of Ophthalmology, King’s College London, Coventry University and Moorfields Eye Hospital.