Whether you have diabetes or not, eye health is something important for us all. However, people with diabetes need to pay special attention to their eyes. Why? As they are at more risk of developing diabetic eye disease, especially diabetic retinopathy, which is one of the top cause of blindness. The longer a person has diabetes, the greater is the risk. Once vision is lost, it is often difficult for the person to see normally again. That’s why you need to take special care in protecting your vision from diabetic eye disease.
Learn from Mr. Mangal’s story, why protecting eyes from diabetes is so important.
Mr. Mangal who’s 40-year-old banker, lives in Pune with his wife and 2 small kids has already lost his eye sight due to diabetes. Retinopathy was robbing his sight, and he had no clue. He is living with diabetes for more than 5 years but had never been to ophthalmologist for eye check-up. He often experienced eye strain, blurred vision and assumed that glasses would fix everything. Not quite, as it turned out. He got both a new set of specs and an urgent referral to the eye hospital.
He was shocked to know that retinopathy in eyes was already in advanced stages. In eye hospital, a team of ophthalmologist referred him for retinal surgery as there were traces of retinal bleeding. Even after the surgery and despite of the best efforts done by doctors retinal bleeding relapsed. They used injections to stop bleeding and continued with his laser surgery for another more year but eventually due to so much blood loss, eye sight was lost.
Due to all this his daily activities were affected; he couldn’t read, write or drive. For the first time, he was frightened about the future of his family. He couldn’t even imagine what the next weeks and months would bring. His mind was flooded with questions like, what would I do now? How would I get around? How would I work? How would I perform basic household tasks? Would I able to see my children? How would I cope with my sudden loss of independence? He was completely devastated and it was far tougher for his wife and children.
Could this incident and my vision loss be prevented? He asked himself this question again and again. What do you think?
Yes, it could be prevented if Mr. Mangal knew how diabetes can also affect the eyes, if he had an idea about early warning signs to identify eye disease or even if he was aware of the significance of regular screening, his vision could be saved.
So, let’s understand the disease better to prevent retinopathy from stealing one more sight again.
Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness and 95% of severe vision loss from diabetic retinopathy can be prevented by early detection, timely treatment and an appropriate follow-up. So, we’re here to help and make you all well equip to prevent future complications. How? By making sure you fully understand what diabetic retinopathy is; including the causes, potential complications, and ways you can prevent it.
What is diabetes eye disease?
A diabetic eye disease is a group of eye conditions that can affect people with diabetes. It includes Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) which affects tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina. It is the most common cause of vision impairment and blindness among people with diabetes. Other eye problems include cataract or clouding of the eye’s lens that makes the things you look at, seem blurry. And other condition is glaucoma which damage the optic nerve that carries signals to the brain that help you to see.
Who are at risk of developing eye disease?
Everyone with diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Factors like long duration of diabetes, poor blood sugar control, high blood pressure or cholesterol or both, smoking or kidney disease increase this risk multiple times.
What are the warning signs?
There are usually no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. The symptoms of diabetic retinopathy often don’t appear until major damage occurs inside of the eye. That’s why it’s critical for people with diabetes should have regular comprehensive dilated eye examination. The earlier diabetic retinopathy is detected, the better the chance that it can be effectively treated and further vision loss can be prevented. Symptoms may include sudden increase in eye floaters e.g. dark spots or cobweb-like strands, blurred vision, pain or difficulty in seeing, flashing lights or sudden loss of vision.
How can diabetic eye disease be diagnosed?
Your eye doctor may conduct one or more tests to diagnose diabetic retinopathy. Doctor may check your ability to see at various distances by using standard eye chart. He may also dilate your eyes by using eye drops to check your retina closely to detect early sign of damage. Additional examination may include test to measure pressure inside the eye, test to measure swelling, check leakage or abnormal growth inside the eye. Your eye doctor would be the best person who can guide you regarding which tests needs to be done on what frequency according to your specific condition.
How can diabetes eye disease be prevented?
While retinopathy is not always preventable, one of the best things you can do is regular follow-ups with your diabetes care team including eye specialist and get your eyes screened periodically. Catching eye problems early is crucial to mitigate future complications. Other things you can do to prevent the onset or worsening of eye problems are:
- Maintaining good control of your diabetes helps to prevent eye problems. One can achieve target blood sugar levels by eating a healthy diet, frequently monitoring your blood sugar levels, getting regular physical exercise, and taking insulin or medicines as prescribed.
- Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control by following a healthy lifestyle, losing extra body weight and taking medications if needed will not only help your eyes but your overall health.
- Quit smoking and avoid alcohol as both increase risk of many diabetes complications including eye disease. By quitting smoking and cutting down on your alcohol intake will help to reduce your risk.
The only thing worse than being blind is knowing it could be prevented.
Our mission is your healthy vision. Get your eyes screened today…!
From the Expert Desk
Ms. Bhawana Rani
She is a proficient diabetes expert and a passionate medical writer. She has over 9 years of experience in the field of diabetes and nutrition. She specializes in educating and developing teaching and training tools for patients and healthcare professionals on different aspects of diabetes education and management. Apart from diabetes, her special interest is writing on various other subjects like health, lifestyle, wellness, nutrition and research.