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Diabetes and Vision Problems; What You Need to Know

November is Diabetes Awareness Month and “all eyes are on diabetes.” The annual month-long campaign is intended to create awareness on diabetes as well as focus on celebrating and helping the 29 million people living both types of these disease live better, healthier and longer lives.

It’s estimated that 1 in every 4 people in America are living with diabetes without their knowledge.The major reason why diabetes screening is the key focus of 2016 World Diabetes Day is to ensure that those with diabetes, particularly type 2, are diagnosed early. Diabetes is a silent disease that comes with a myriad of health problems and vision loss is no exception.

How Does Diabetes Relate to Vision?

Studies have shown the link between diabetes and vision. When there are high sugar levels (hyperglycemia) in your blood without sufficient insulin to break the sugar down, you’re highly susceptible to diabetes related health and vision problems. The major link of diabetes and vision is seen in the effects of diabetes on the retina, a crucial part of the eye. Like film in a camera, the retina captures focused images and converts those images into electrical signals for the brain to decode.

Diabetes Malnourishes the Retina

Like any other organ of the body, the eye needs to be nourished and provided with oxygen in order to function. This occurs via tiny blood vessels called capillaries which supply the retina with oxygen. However, in the case of diabetics, the tiny vessels rupture. This leakage and hemorrhaging leads to edema in the retina causing blurred vision. As retinopathy advances, the flow of blood and oxygen will be inhibited and the retina becomes malnourished.

Decreased Vision and Vision Loss in Diabetics

Poorly controlled diabetics are at risk for diabetic retinopathy. The retina is greatly affected by diabetic retinopathy especially when it involves the macula. The macula is responsible for central detail vision like reading and driving, as well as color vison. When retinopathy affects the macula, it becomes swollen with fluid, a condition known as macular edema. This will lead to blindness if nothing is done to treat the condition.

Another form of diabetic retinopathy involves the growth of new and weak blood vessels that eventually break, causing leakage of blood and hemorrhaging inside the eye. This inhibits the retina from projecting images to the brain. This condition is called proliferative retinopathy and is a common cause of vision loss in diabetics. In advanced proliferative retinopathy, the abnormal blood vessels wither easily causing retinal detachment and glaucoma, leading to severe retinal damage and blindness.

Treatment of Retinopathy with Laser Therapy

Any person experiencing eye and vision problems should seek treatment irrespective of the cause. Diabetic retinopathy becomes more critical with late diagnosis. Macular edema may be treated with laser treatments to seal leaking blood vessels. Medications may also be injected in the eye to help absorb the leaking fluid. If diagnosed with proliferative retinopathy, laser therapy is the best treatment. Laser therapy works by inhibiting the growth of abnormal blood vessels, a sure way to avoid blurriness caused by vitreous hemorrhage and macular edema.

For effectiveness, laser therapy for proliferative retinopathy should be performed before the weak blood vessels begin to bleed. It is recommended that diabetics should be proactive, going for dilated retinal eye examinations to help monitor for retinopathy. With regular exams some symptoms can be spotted and dealt with before they become serious.

Screening for Retinopathy

Now that the link between diabetes and vision has been established, it is important to have periodic screenings for retinopathy. When it is detected in the early stages, retinopathy can be managed more easily. If you are diabetic you should visit an eye care physician as soon as you begin to experience the following symptoms; spots in vision, blurred vision and flashes of light in the field of vision. But you shouldn’t wait for the symptoms to appear, preventive measures are a better option. For more information on our services or how we can help, contact ustoday.