India is set to emerge as the diabetic capital of the world. In 2000 there were 31.7 million diabetics in India and this number is estimated to rise to 79.4 million by 2030 – the largest number in any nation. Diabetic retinopathy is a blinding complication of uncontrolled diabetes mellitus. Blindness due to diabetic retinopathy can be prevented by strict systemic control, regular screening and timely intervention.

An optometrist examines a patient using a fundus camera

CMC’s department of Ophthalmology is dedicated to the screening, prevention and treatment of diabetic retinopathy. Their outreach team reaches out to rural areas surrounding Vellore, screening all diabetics presenting for eye care either using a fundus camera and tele-screening or by fundus examination.

However, the numbers they are able to screen by this method are low and confined to those presenting themselves. Moreover, patients requiring treatment need to be referred to CMC’s base hospital (Schell Eye Hospital) for further management. Completion of treatment may require several visits.

CMC’s ophthalmology team view a mobile eye unit

Friends of Vellore UK are partnering with Friends of Vellore Australia and the Vellore CMC Foundation (Friends of Vellore in the USA) to raise funds to buy a mobile ophthalmic unit. This unit will address both issues of poor access and follow up. It will make screening accessible to much larger numbers and enable laser treatment in the field for those requiring it. CMC envisage the mobile ophthalmic unit not just serving the peripheral clinics but travelling to cover populations with poor access within Vellore and the neighbouring Chittoor and Thiruvannamalai districts as well. Apart from diabetic retinopathy screening and treatment the mobile unit will be used for screening for all eye disease in children and adults in areas with poor access.

The interior of a mobile eye unit

The cost of this unit is £90,000 and as we are splitting the cost three ways, Friends of Vellore UK are seeking to raise £30,000 for this project. If this project is something you would like to be a part of, we’d love to hear from you. You can donate directly here.