People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing a number of serious health problems. Consistently high blood glucose levels can lead to serious diseases affecting the heart, kidneys, nerves, eyes, extremities of the body like foot etc..
BUT, with the correct treatment and the required lifestyle changes, many people are able to prevent or delay the complications.
The eye complication in diabetics is called diabetic retinopathy. The high blood sugars cause damage to the tiny blood vessels in the retina. These blood vessels can swell, leak, or close stopping the blood flow, so sometimes new blood vessels can grow, all of this contributes to vision problems or even blindness.
Diabetic Retinopathy may progress through four stages:
- Mild nonproliferative retinopathy
- Moderate nonproliferative retinopathy
- Severe nonproliferative retinopathy
- Proliferative retinopathy
With nonproliferative retinopathy tiny blood vessels leak, making the retina swell. Sometimes the blood vessels in the retina close off so the blood cannot reach the macula, this can affect the vision too.
Proliferative retinopathy is a more advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy. This happens when retina starts developing new blood vessels. These fragile new blood vessels are usually abnormal and grow in the center of the eye, can bleed, if they bleed a lot it may block all the vision. These new blood vessels can also form scar tissue. Scar tissue can cause problems with the macula or lead to a detached retina.
The few steps that you can take to avoid eye problems are:
- Keep your blood sugars under tight control
- Control your blood pressure
- Quit smoking
- Maintain healthy cholesterol levels
- Exercise regularly
- Visit your eye care professional at least once a year for a dilated eye exam
See your eye care professional if:
- Your vision becomes blurry
- You have trouble reading signs or books
- You see double
- One or both of your eyes hurt
- Your eyes get red and stay that way
- You feel pressure in your eye
- You see spots or floaters
- Straight lines do not look straight
- You can’t see things on the side as you used to
Diabetic retinopathy is a serious eye condition that can lead to diminished eyesight or even blindness in those with diabetes. A healthy lifestyle with prescribed medications and exercise is your road map for managing diabetes, which is the key to preventing or delaying complications.