Are you concerned that diabetes is affecting your eyesight? Discover how diabetes can affect the eyes, what signs and symptoms to look out for and how you can protect your eyesight from damage.
Remember that if you have any concerns about your eyesight, the expert, friendly team at Pacific Eye Clinic can help.
How does diabetes affect the eyes?
Diabetes (whether Type 1, Type 2, or gestational) causes blood sugar levels to be elevated for prolonged periods of time. If not controlled, high blood sugar causes damage to the blood vessels throughout the body. Damaged blood vessels result in the parts of the body supplied by these vessels receiving insufficient nutrients to operate correctly. Over time, insufficient nutrition damages nerves, organs and other tissues creating a host of problems that are loosely termed “diabetic complications”.
Unfortunately, the retina (the back of the eye), is a part of the body that’s particularly prone to be adversely affected by diabetes-damaged blood vessels. The retina is the part of the eye that picks up light signals and transforms them into electrical signals. The electrical signals travel to the brain, where they’re interpreted. If the blood vessels supplying the retina are damaged due to uncontrolled high blood sugar, diabetic retinopathy can result.
What is diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is the condition caused by damage to the blood vessels that supply the retina. The degree of damage is categorised into three different levels.
The first stage is called background retinopathy. This stage is characterised by small bulges in the blood vessels. The bulges are weakened areas of the blood vessels, which may lose blood (or hemorrhage) from time to time. At this stage, the condition usually won’t cause any noticeable symptoms. It can, however, be detected through a specialist diabetic eye exam.
During the second stage of retinopathy (pre-proliferative retinopathy), the bleeding becomes more frequent and/or widespread.
The third, and most severe, state of retinopathy is proliferative retinopathy. At this stage, there is widespread and frequent bleeding from the damaged blood vessels. This results in the formation of new blood vessels as well as swelling and scarring as the body attempts to heal the damage. Unfortunately, at this stage, damage to the eye will cause some loss of vision.
Diabetic retinopathy is a progressive, degenerative condition that can lead to blindness if not managed correctly. Early diagnosis is crucial to achieving a better outcome.
What can I do to prevent eye damage due to diabetes?
Thankfully, diabetic eye damage is preventable. The two most important things patients can do to reduce their risk of diabetic retinopathy are:
- Control their blood sugar as rigorously as possible. This may include lifestyle changes, dietary changes, and/or medication (including insulin).
- Visit an eye specialist for a diabetic eye exam, conducted by a suitably qualified ophthalmologist or optometrist. They will use an ophthalmoscope to determine the condition of the retina, as well as complete other screening and diagnostic techniques.
Caught early, diabetic retinopathy can be effectively managed. There are also surgical and laser treatments available to reduce the effects of retinopathy.
Contact our experts
Contact Pacific Eye Clinic on the Gold Coast to book your eye exam today.