Diabetic retinopathy on the rise in Pakistan

Reliable measurement of the distance between a phakic refractive IOL and the crystalline lens is important in detecting direct contact, a risk factor for induced cataract. In a recent study using optical coherence tomography, investigators found that the phakic refractive IOL and anterior lens surface moved forward in all cases during accommodation; mechanical contact was infrequent but was found in all instances in which opacification developed.


London-A population-based assessment of diabetic retinopathy among Pakistani adults found visual impairment (<6/12 in the better eye) in nearly half of the diabetic population and signs of diabetic retinopathy in one in six. With large increases in the prevalence of diabetes expected in coming years, data from this and other studies could be used to establish or improve screening and treatment programs to prevent diabetic retinopathy from becoming a significant cause of vision loss, said Shaheen P. Shah, MBBS, MRCOphth, MSc.

Dr. Shah reported these findings on behalf of the Pakistan National Eye Survey Study Group. The study was an international collaboration between the International Centre for Eye Health, London, and the Pakistan Institute of Community Ophthalmology, Kyber Medical Institute, Peshawar, Pakistan.

Because this was a national survey, it is possible to extrapolate the data to the country as a whole.

"By exploring risk factors and identifying high-prevalence areas, services can be targeted to maximize the cost-effectiveness of diabetic retinopathy programs," Dr. Shah continued.

Pakistan is the sixth largest country in the world in terms of population, with 150 million people and a growth rate of 2.9%. Little definitive information on the prevalence and causes of blindness and visual impairment was available before the national survey was initiated in 2001, however, he said.

"Reliable estimates are needed so that services can be planned in a rational manner," Dr. Shah said.

As a background to the survey and its findings, he noted that Pakistan and other developing countries have experienced a significant increase in diabetes, most likely due to rapid changes in lifestyle and diet. At least one-third of Pakistan's population lives in urban areas, nearly double the rate of 50 years ago, and 25% of adults are overweight or obese.

Health-care resources in Pakistan and other developing countries appear to be inadequate, to meet the growing challenges they face, however. Many patients with diabetes are not receiving treatment, and the effectiveness of care among those who do receive it is unclear.

"Diabetes is increasing in many countries, and they face challenges in terms of prevention of diabetes and in the prevention and management of complications of diabetes," Dr. Shah said. "Most of the morbidity that will be suffered by the diabetic population will be in developing countries due to their limited resources for health care.

"Pakistan, with its huge growth rate and large population, is a prime example of a country that will suffer from the effects of diabetes and diabetic retinopathy," Dr. Shah said.


The national survey was performed between 2001 and 2004 with the goal of estimating the prevalence and causes of blindness and visual impairment in adults aged 30 years or more. The number examined was 16,507-95% of those originally enumerated. Survey methodology used a stratified random cluster sampling technique to obtain a nationally representative sample. The survey included 221 clusters and covered most of the country, except for a few areas that were too dangerous to enter because of political instability.

Two groups of diabetics were identified during data analysis. Group 1 included patients with self-reported histories of diabetes obtained during survey interviews. Group 2 consisted of previously unknown patients with diabetes whose conditions were detected during the survey process; this group was then split into two categories-those whose disease was randomly detected due to elevated random blood glucose and those in whom disease was clinically detected.

In further analysis, diabetic retinopathy was classified into three non-mutually exclusive groups: nonproliferative, maculopathy, and proliferative. Grading was performed following pupil dilation and slit lamp-based indirect ophthalmoscopy by trained ophthalmologists.


Approximately one in seven adults aged 40 years or more had diabetes. The proportion of undetected diabetes was 60%, which was higher than expected, according to Dr. Shah.