Tomorrow, 14th November, is observed as World Diabetes Day.
Diabetes is very common these days, and it affects eyes as well, leading to loss of vision. Let’s understand Diabetic Eye Disease.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar is raised beyond normal limit. A hormone called “Insulin” is responsible for sending the sugar into your cells where it is used as a fuel to produce energy.
In diabetes, deficiency of insulin occurs, or your cells develop resistance to insulin and sugar fails to enter your cells and instead just collects in your blood, thus raising blood sugar levels.
What causes Diabetes?
The exactly cause of diabetes is unknown.
But some of the risk factors that make your more likely to develop diabetes are
1. Family history of Diabetes
If someone in your family suffers from diabetes, especially your parents, there is a chance that you have a genetic susceptibility to diabetes.
Although Diabetes is also found among children, the chances of developing diabetes increases with increasing age.
3. Unhealthy diet
Eating high amount of sugars and processed foods increases your risk of getting diabetes.
4. Sedentary lifestyle
People who spent most of their time sitting and do not exercise regularly, have a high change of developing diabetes.
If you are overweight, the cells of your body become resistant to insulin, and thus increase your change of getting diabetes.
What are the symptoms of Diabetes?
If you have the following symptoms, you could have diabetes.
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Unexplained weight loss
- Increased hunger
- Slow healing of sores
- Blurred vision
- Frequent skin infections
How does diabetes affect the eyes?
Diabetes mainly affects the retina and causes “Diabetic retinopathy”.
I am going to show you some pictures of the retina to understand how a diabetic retinopathy looks like.
First let’s understand how a normal retina looks like. Here’s a picture of the retina of the right eye.
It has a healthy orange glow, and they yellow orange circle that you can see (black arrow) is the “optic disc” which is the starting point of the “Optic nerve” that connects the retina to the brain and enables us see. And the red dot in the the center (red arrow) is the “macula”. The macula is that part of the retina that enables the sharpest vision.
Now let’s come to diabetic retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is divided into different stages.
1. Mild Diabetic Retinopathy
In Mild or early diabetic retinopathy, there are a few blood spots on your retina. At this stage, vision is not affected.
Diabetic retinopathy of mild stage can be reversed by control of blood sugar.
Let’s see how mild diabetic retinopathy looks like. Observe how a few blood spots are present on the retina (black arrow).
2. Moderate diabetic retinopathy
In the next stage of diabetic retinopathy, the number of blood spots increase and also there are some yellow spots known as “exudates”.
Let’s see a picture.
3. Severe Diabetic Retinopathy
When diabetic retinopathy reaches a severe state, the number of blood spots and exudates drastically increase.
Let’s see how the retina looks like in a patient of severe diabetic retinopathy.
Severe retinopathy can be treated by controlling blood sugar and by certain injections.
4. Advanced Diabetic Retinopathy
If the blood sugar level is not controlled, the patient will then progress to advanced diabetic retinopathy. At this stage, permanent irreversible blindness can occur, therefore, a very strict control of blood sugar is required to prevent a patient from progressing to this stage.
What happens in advanced diabetic retinopathy?
In this stage, due to blockage of the tiny blood vessels in the retina, the oxygen demand is not fulfilled and new blood vessels begin to develop. These new blood vessels are extremely unhealthy for the eyes. They very fragile and bleed easily causing massive bleeding in the eye leading to vision loss.
Let’s see how advanced diabetic retinopathy looks like.
Observe the large amount of blood on the retina (black arrow) and a new unhealthy tiny blood vessels (red arrow).
Advanced diabetic retinopathy is then progresses to further complications such as vitreous hemorrhage, retinal detachment and glaucoma that can cause complete incurable blindness.
How is vision affected in diabetic retinopathy?
Patients with diabetic retinopathy will have defects with their central vision. They see black spots in the center of their visual field as shown in the picture below.
What are the treatments available for diabetic retinopathy?
The most important factor in diabetic retinopathy is blood sugar control.
If you keep your blood sugar under control, you may never develop diabetic retinopathy. Mild and moderate stages of diabetic retinopathy may be reversed with good blood sugar control.
For advanced stages, certain injections are given inside the eyes to improve vision.
If new unhealthy blood vessels have developed in your eyes, you may need lasers to remove them so that they don’t bleed and cause blindness. If massive bleeding has already occurred and caused vision loss, then a surgery may be required to restore vision. The success of this surgery is variable. Although a good amount of vision may be regained, but if your eyes reach and advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy, complete vision recovery may not be possible.
How to prevent diabetic retinopathy?
The most effective was to prevent diabetic eye disease is to keep your blood sugars under control.
Always remember –
“Diabetes is a disease that affects the whole body. Keep your blood sugar under control and you can prevent diabetic eye disease.”
Go for regular blood tests to keep a watch on your blood sugar, follow a healthy diet and visit your physician and eye doctor at least once in a year for a routine check up.
Just take good care of your health, and your vision will remain clear and bright for a life time!
If you have any queries, drop a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll see you soon in my next blog, till then take good care of your eyes and stay healthy!