Contributed by – Krushna Charan
Among all the common diseases, diabetes stands out from the rest. According to the estimation, 77 million people in India have been diagnosed with diabetes. Once you are affected by diabetes, you require information, education, support, and self-management skills for effective control and treatment.
Diabetes is caused by low or high blood sugar levels in your blood. When your blood sugar level is higher than normal it starts to affect your eyes in such a way that your vision may get blurry. If diabetes is not controlled then the condition of your eyes can get worse and even lead to partial or complete blindness. It is therefore important to know how diabetes affects your eyes and how keeping it control is the only way to protect your eyes.
Diabetes and eye problems
Diabetes occurs if your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or your body can’t use it properly. Insulin is the hormone that ensures that the glucose entering the bloodstream from the digestion of food must be removed from the blood. The result of insufficient action of insulin increases the blood glucose concentration in blood and causes hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia also refers to high blood sugar levels in your blood. It may cause nerve damage and worsen your vision.
There is a condition called hypoglycemia which is the opposite of hyperglycemia, which is caused by low blood sugar levels in your blood. The mild symptoms of hypoglycemia also include blurry vision or double vision, and difficulty in concentration.
Eye diseases caused by diabetes
The damage to your eyes starts when high levels of sugar in the bloodstream blocks the tiny blood vessels that go to your retina, causing them to leak fluid or bleed. In healthy eyes, there is a balance between the fluid that is made and the fluid that leaves the eye. Therefore, this fluid creates constant pressure within the eye and is needed to keep the eye swelled, supported, and working appropriately. Blurry vision may be caused due to the extra fluid leaking into the lens of the eyes. This can lead to the change in the shape of the lens and make it hard for your eyes to focus.
Short-term elevations in blood sugar levels can also affect the lens of the eye, causing blurred vision. Only after controlling diabetes, your blurry vision may get better. Sometimes the blurred vision causes a person to see an ophthalmologist, who then makes the diagnosis of diabetes.
To increase the level of insulin, some people take medicines as prescribed by their doctor and this might be the reason for blurry vision. Long term effects of blurry vision may lead to diabetic eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma.
At the back of the eye on the retina, there are tiny blood vessels that nourish the nerves of your eyes. High glucose levels can injure these blood vessels. Those injured blood vessels can also leak fluid and cause swelling in an area of the retina called macular oedema, which can cause the loss of central vision, making it difficult to read or drive.
In this condition, new fluid is constantly being made within the eye, and the fluid that is being replaced leaves the eye by entering a drainage meshwork towards the front of the eye. The blockage of the drainage system can lead to increased fluid pressure within the eye. This condition is called glaucoma. It may happen due to the eye pressure that is caused by high blood sugar levels in diabetes.
High glucose level causes changes in the proteins inside the cells of the lens and alters the optical properties of the lens. A cataract is caused by clouding of the lens in the eye in a way that the person can’t see clearly. The symptoms of cataracts are gradual blurring of the vision, glare in bright light or sunlight, and poor colour vision, etc. Many people may have cataracts after ageing, but it is seen more often in people who are suffering from diabetes.
[Also read: FAQ’s: How To Protect Your Eyes If You Have Diabetes ]
How can vision losses be prevented in diabetes?
Early detection and timely treatment can prevent vision loss or blurry vision due to diabetes. Some self-management techniques to control diabetes are:
- Control your blood sugar level
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Avoid smoking
- Go for an annual eye test
- Do some eye exercise
The first concerns in treating diabetic patients are to save a life, alleviate symptoms, and enhance the quality of individuals’ life. Thereafter treatment aims to minimize long-term complications. You should try to maintain your blood pressure, check your cholesterol more often to prevent diabetes-related eye diseases.
Among many diseases, diabetes requires more self-management and primary care than others. Not only adhere to a special diet but also those who are undergoing insulin medication need to adjust their dose and watch their blood sugar levels closely.
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