Diabetes is a disease that results when the pancreas does not secrete enough insulin or when the body is unable to process it properly. Insulin is the hormone that regulates the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Diabetes can affect children and adults.
How does diabetes affect the eye?
While patients with diabetes are more likely to develop eye problems such as cataracts and glaucoma, the disease’s effect on the retina is the main threat to vision. It usually takes 20 years for diabetes to cause changes in the retina, which is known as diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetes affects the circulatory system of the retina. The earliest phase of the disease is known as background diabetic retinopathy. This is when the arteries in the retina become weakened and leak, forming small, dot-like hemorrhages. These leaking vessels often lead to swelling or edema in the retina and decreased vision. Laser treatment may be offered by your doctor at this point to preserve vision.
The next phase is known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy. New, fragile, vessels develop as the circulatory system attempts to keep adequate oxygen levels in the retina. Unfortunately, these delicate vessels bleed easily. Blood may leak into the retina and vitreous, causing spots or floaters, in addition to decreased vision. The doctor will recommend laser intervention in this situation to help shrink and eliminate the vessels.
In the later phases of the disease, continued abnormal vessel growth and scar tissue may cause serious problems such as retinal detachment and glaucoma.
Signs And Symptoms
The way diabetic retinopathy affects vision varies widely, depending on the stage of the disease. Some common symptoms of diabetic retinopathy are:
- Blurred vision (this is often linked to blood sugar levels)
- Floaters and flashers
- Sudden loss of vision
- Detection And Diagnosis
Diabetic patients require routine eye examinations for early detection and treatment.
Researchers have found that diabetic patients who are able to maintain appropriate blood sugar levels have fewer eye problems than those with poor control. Diet and exercise also play an important role in the overall health of those with diabetes.
Diabetics can also greatly reduce the possibilities of eye complications by scheduling routine examinations with an ophthalmologist. Many problems can be treated with much greater success when caught early.