Monday, May 20, 2024

Diabetes and the eye!

In the past we have discussed about diabetes and we have mentioned that the eye is one of the organs that can be affected by uncontrolled blood sugar. Long standing history of elevated blood sugar is the main risk factor. Diabetic eye disease is a progressive disease but can be influenced by good control and monitoring of blood sugar and other relevant diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels. You need to have a good insight of this condition and its related diseases and complications so that you can defeat it!

Who is really at risk of diabetic eye disease?
Anyone diagnosed of diabetes is at risk of diabetic eye disease. The risk increases when there are other related problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and kidney disease.

What really happens to the eye?
The back of the eye has a special film called retina, which receives light and then sends messages to the brain for us to see. It has blood vessels that supply it with nutrients and oxygen. So that means it is a living thing! When the blood sugar is always high, the blood vessels in the back of the eye get injured and become fragile and then start to leak.

A lot of things can happen to this special film in the back of the eye. The leaky blood vessels can get blocked. Fat and other nutrients may leak onto this film and form tiny yellow patches that block light. Sometimes they bleed and the little bleeding spots cause poor light reception and blockage. This special film starts to starve from lack of oxygen and nutrients and eventually develops multiple small vessels which worsen the situation. Blindness can result!

Can I avoid Diabetic eye disease?
Diabetic eye disease is one complication that you can’t entirely avoid but you can delay and slow its development and progression. Good control of blood sugar level is the key. If high blood pressure and cholesterol also exist, they need to be taken care of. Smoking and high fat diet should be avoided. Avoid drinking anything that could harm the kidneys, since poor kidney function also affects the eye.

What symptoms should I look out for?
A progressive decline in vision is a sign that one should look out for. However, a serious decline may occur in a short period of time leading to blindness, especially when one has accompanying uncontrolled blood pressure.

What should you do now?
If you have never been screened for diabetes, please do so at the nearest health facility. You should also ask to know your cholesterol levels and blood pressure levels. There are also simple tests available within clinics that can be used to screen for kidney disease.

If you are living with diabetes, you should at least see an (ophthalmologist) eye specialist at least once a year. The frequency may increase, especially if the eye specialist discovers a problem. In simple terms, eye examination by an eye specialist is a necessity!

You should also ensure that there is adequate control of blood pressure and high cholesterol levels if they also occur. If they can’t be controlled on lifestyle modification please accept the treatment if is offered to you. A lot of studies have shown that a good control of blood sugar, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels reduce complications such as eye disease and blindness, stroke, kidney disease, heart failure and deaths.

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