Diabetes can damage your eyesight
Diabetes mellitus can affect any system or organ in the body. The eyes are no exception, as high blood glucose and high blood pressure can cause damage to an individual’s retina, lens, vitreous and optic nerve.
The term diabetic retinopathy describes any disorder of the retina that is caused by diabetes. Broadly, two types of retinopathies occur: Non-proliferative and Proliferative.
• Non-proliferative retinopathy:
In non-proliferative retinopathy, the vessels in the back of the eye develop balloon — like swelling and form pouches. As more and more vessels get blocked, non-proliferative retinopathy progresses from mild to moderate to severe. Vision is not usually affected at this point in time. Following this, due to ruptured blood vessels, some patients may develop a condition called macula edema where fluid leaks into the part of the eye that is involved in focusing an image (macula). This can cause a spectrum of symptoms, ranging from blurring of vision to visual loss.
• Proliferative retinopathy:
Other individuals, after several years, may develop proliferative retinopathy where fragile new blood vessels grow along the retina in an attempt to compensate for the existing clogged/damaged blood vessels. These delicate vessels can easily leak blood, causing sight threatening conditions such as a vitreous haemorrhage. New blood vessels can also promote the formation of scar tissue. As this tissue shrinks, it can distort the retina and even cause a retinal detachment.
Chances of glaucoma
Patients with diabetes are also 40 per cent more likely to suffer from glaucoma. This is a condition where pressure builds up in the eye, and subsequently compresses the blood vessels supplying the retina and the optic nerve. This in turn, causes a gradual loss of vision. Individuals with diabetes are 60 per cent more likely to develop cataract, as compared to those without diabetes. Cataract tends to occur at a younger age in people with diabetes and can progress faster as well. Lastly, high blood sugar levels can temporarily alter the shape of the lens, again causing blurring of vision.
So, what can one do to prevent diabetes related eye problems? The old adage: “Prevention is better than cure,” certainly holds true. Blood sugar level and blood pressure must be kept at goal. Studies show that patients who keep their blood sugars close to target are less likely to develop diabetic retinopathy.