Type 2 diabetes or diabetes mellitus is a disease in which the body is unable to metabolize carbohydrates properly, resulting in high levels of glucose in the blood. Diabetes occurs when the body is unable to produce enough of the blood-glucose-regulating hormone insulin, or when your body’s cells are unable to respond to the signals from insulin to metabolize glucose.
Elevated blood glucose levels caused by diabetes can have adverse effects on your eyes and vision. Read on to know more about eye disease and diabetes.
How Does Diabetes Affect the Eyes?
Consistently elevated blood glucose levels in the body can damage your blood vessels. Your eyes have numerous important blood vessels that can get damaged by high blood glucose. This can cause them to leak, get blocked or grow abnormally, resulting in eye problems. Diabetic eye diseases are currently a leading cause of blindness in working adults.
Over 60 million Indians have diabetes, and that is more than 7% of India’s adult population. One-third of these people with diabetes suffer from diabetic eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy. Over 1 million Indians die from diabetes-related complications annually.
Various Eye Diseases Caused by Diabetes:
Diabetes causes many types of eye diseases such as:
- Diabetic Retinopathy: This is one of the most common causes of vision impairment in diabetic adults. The retina of the eye detects light and converts it into images that we can see. High blood glucose damages the blood vessels of our retina, causing swelling, bleeding, blockage, and abnormal growth of these vessels. This leads to scarring and cell loss in the retina, resulting in distorted vision and eventually, blindness.
- Diabetic Macular Edema: Also called DME, this condition is caused by leaking fluid in a part of the retina known as the macula. The macula is the part that gives us the sharp, straight vision that we use to read, drive, and recognize faces. High blood sugar damages capillaries in the retina and these capillaries leak blood and fluid into the macula, causing blurry vision.
- Glaucoma: Glaucoma is a diabetic complication that causes damage to the optic nerve that connects the eyes to the brain. The front portion of the eye is filled with a clear liquid called aqueous humor. This liquid flows out through the pupil and nourishes the surrounding tissues. It is then absorbed into our blood through the eye’s drainage system. High blood glucose in people with diabetes damages this drainage system so that the fluid cannot drain. This causes a build-up of eye pressure, which damages the optic nerve.
- Blurred Vision: Blurred vision is an early-warning sign of diabetes. It can be caused by several diabetes-related complications such as fluid leaking into the lens of our eyes, diabetic retinopathy, DME, cataracts, and glaucoma.
- Cataracts: The lenses of the eyes let us focus and view images, similar to a camera. Cataracts cloud the lenses with debris and fluid. This causes blurred vision and glare. Diabetics are at a much higher risk of developing cataracts earlier in life than healthy people.
Prevention and Treatment:
Diabetic eye diseases can be delayed or prevented by having good control over diabetes and maintaining your blood sugar levels. Eating healthy, exercising regularly, and avoiding stress are the key to controlling diabetes. Frequent eye exams can help in the early detection of diabetic eye diseases, and prompt treatment with proper follow-up care can prevent vision loss.
Treatments for diabetic eye diseases include:
- Eye drops that lower pressure and laser treatment or surgery to drain excess fluids for glaucoma.
- Surgery to replace the lenses with artificial ones in case of cataracts.
- Anti-VEGF injection therapy to reduce abnormal blood vessel growth in the macula and laser surgery and corticosteroids to suppress DME. VEGF is vascular endothelial growth factor, a protein in the eye that causes the abnormal growth of blood vessels in diabetics. Blocking this protein reduces macular edema.
- Surgery, medication, and laser treatments for diabetic retinopathy.
Lab Tests that Can Help:
People who are diabetic should get frequent eye check-ups to find signs of diabetic eye diseases. Tests like visual acuity test, tonometry, pupil dilation, and optical coherence tomography (OCT) are used to detect signs of diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema. Diabetics should also regularly undergo tests like HBA1C to monitor their blood sugar level.
If you are suffering from symptoms like blurry vision, nausea, eye pain, headaches, watery eyes, halos around lights or loss of peripheral vision, you should get tested for diabetic eye diseases. You can book an appointment now for such tests through Medlife Labs. You can also consult an ophthalmologist specializing in diabetic eye care to receive further guidance.
You can go for HbA1C or fasting and postprandial blood sugar tests. Book today by calling Medlife Labs on 7022000900.
All types of diabetes-related eye disease can cause vision loss and blindness. Controlling your diabetes by remaining stress-free, being physically active, eating healthy, and taking medicines on time can prevent or delay the loss of vision from diabetic eye complications.