EYEs + diaBETES = EYEBETES
Eyebetes initiative is a movement, which aims to create awareness regarding diabetes and preventable blindness, provide free screening for diabetes and common causes of preventable blindness to those most vulnerable, particularly concentrating our efforts in the slums, villages and tribal areas of India, and also work with leading scientists and organizations in India and across the globe to conduct research to help with policy decisions.
Diabetes in India
India is soon to be the world capital for diabetes with more than 100 million diabetics. Put in perspective, that means, almost 1 in 10 adult Indians is a diabetic. Given our population of 1.3 billion and our demographic, which is predominantly youth and middle aged, we are sitting on a time bomb of diabetes in India.
Unfortunately, undiagnosed diabetes remains a huge problem in India.
From our previous studies and our previous projects in villages, slums and tribal areas, we have found that up to 60% of people are either undiagnosed pre-diabetics or confirmed diabetics, but have never been tested before.
This is an alarming figure and a lot of work needs to be done to address this.
First and foremost is creating awareness as to what is diabetes and why it needs to be diagnosed and treated early.
Even amongst the educated, primary healthcare, which means going to the doctor and having tests done when you are healthy, is yet in its infancy. It is almost non-existent in our remote areas and in our villages and in our slums.
Undiagnosed diabetes causes problems to almost every part of the body. It is the commonest cause of kidney failure and dialysis in India, a leading cause for heart attack and stroke, a leading cause for gangrene and amputation and also one of the leading causes for blindness.
A simple blood test can diagnose diabetes early and appropriate treatment can prevent all the above complications leading to a reduction in morbidity and mortality.
With Eyebetes initiative we aim to create awareness in the larger community about diabetes and its problems if left undiagnosed and untreated, and also provide free screening using an HbA1c blood test, which is a simple diagnostic test for diabetes.
If the HbA1c is abnormal, you have diabetes and there are no further confirmatory tests required.
Preventable Blindness in India
In India, particularly in our slums, villages and tribal areas more than 60% of people require glasses but are either not wearing glasses or are wearing the wrong prescription, which leads them to have a visual disability, which will categorize them as either moderate or severely visually disabled.
It is well known that poor vision is associated with significant impairment in productivity, mental health, and physical wellness. If you can’t see well, you cannot perform well at school, college, or at work which restricts your productivity and impacts not only the individual but also society at large.
At Eyebetes Foundation, we have found that prescribing prescription glasses to those who need it is the most cost effective way of truly impacting someone’s life.
What we have also noticed is that once people start wearing glasses and their vision is better, then they will never go back to not wearing glasses.
The other causes of preventable blindness include cataract, glaucoma, diabetes in the eyes, eye surface disease, infections, inflammation in the eye and tumours. A lot of these diseases can be diagnosed and treated before they cause any visual problems.
Unfortunately once the vision is affected, then there is very little to do to recover the vision even with today’s advances in technology.
Therefore, it is imperative that any disease like diabetes in the eyes, glaucoma, aging, is picked up while the vision is good and treated before any visual disability or vision loss occurs.
For this, one requires very skilled eye surgeons and a lot of very expensive technology. Unfortunately, in our villages, slums and tribal areas such technology and expertise is limited, and if available, is unaffordable to most.
At Eyebetes Foundation we are able to screen people for the common causes of preventable blindness using state-of-the-art technology and our expert eye doctors review all images and the beneficiary’s vision, blood pressure and blood sugar details and provide a comprehensive report.
By diagnosing preventable causes of blindness early, one can save one from long-term blindness and visual loss.
Why is Eyebetes needed?
In India we need a movement like Eyebetes because of our large and varied population, limited education, varying healthcare beliefs, limited healthcare resources and dearth of trained and skilled doctors and nurses especially in rural and tribal areas. Even where facilities are available they are either beyond the reach of those living in economically challenged conditions or these is limited awareness to access the services.
For our most vulnerable communities, specially people in slums, villages, tribal areas and for our frontline workers a movement like Eyebetes is needed to create awareness and provide free tests in the community itself. People are reluctant to travel even for free tests and health is not a priority. Eyebetes initiative reaches out to the most vulnerable communities by working in their community and providing tests close to them.