November is here again and it presents an avenue for us to raise awareness regarding diabetes-related eye diseases. Ophthalmologists, optometrists, physicians and vision care organizations are at the frontline this month in educating the public on how diabetes can evolve to compromise eye function. Diabetes is a chronic (life-long) illness characterized by loss of regulation of blood glucose levels, resulting in elevated sugar in blood. In most cases, particularly when the condition is not well managed using anti-diabetic medication or in patients who are non-compliant to the drugs, diabetes increases the risk of a wide variety of health concerns. These include neurological/nerve damage, kidney injury, eye damage, heart and blood vessel diseases among others. The vision disturbances which often culminate in blindness, are not only common but also among the few which are preventable.
Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that arises secondary to diabetes that is not well managed, and are a leading cause of blindness. Despite being preventable, the disease has no warning signs therefore regular eye check-ups in diabetic patients are critical for early detection and timely treatment to reduce the risk of eye damage and blindness. Other prevention measures that the patients should observe include taking their diabetic medication religiously as prescribed by the physicians, maintaining healthy balanced diets, and refraining from cigarette smoking which could aggravate the effects of the illness. Doctors also advise patients to be physically active, but this should be done cautiously with adequate carbohydrate intake, so as to avoid compounding the sugar-lowering effect of the medication they are already on.
The group of eye diseases include diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma. Among these three, retinopathy is the most common and involves damage to the blood vessels in the retina. The retina is a thin layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye and is responsible for the conversion of light into nerve signals, so that the brain can recognize and interpret what we see. Therefore, damage to the blood vessels progressively compromises blood flow to the retina which causes the patient to have mild visual disturbances, worsening to cause blindness. Cataracts is a condition in which the lens of the eye, necessary for focusing near and far objects (accommodation), becomes clouded and blocks the passage of light rays to the retina for recognition. Images tend to be blurry and hazy. Glaucoma on the other hand involves an increase in the pressure within the eye (Intra-Ocular Pressure), leading to damage to the optic nerve which is key for vision.
The silver lining is that diabetic eye disease can be treated to reduce the risk of blindness by as much as 90% when detected early. Some of the modalities include laser treatment which has proved effective over the years, especially when coupled with medication. Ophthalmologists recommend at least an annual comprehensive dilated eye examination and giving a detailed health history, for early detection. As with all medical conditions, early assessment and treatment yields the most success. Book an appointment today with an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) on Ponea.com and keep your eyes healthy.