Diabetes can affect the health of your heart, liver and other organs, but did you know diabetes can affect your vision as well? Diabetes can lead to a condition called diabetic retinopathy as well as other eye problems. Diabetic retinopathy is a fancy term meaning “damage to the retina”, or the part of the eye that helps you see. Thankfully, we have treatments (such as laser treatment) to help stop the progression of diabetic retinopathy. You only have one set of eyes. Keep them healthy by learning more about diabetic retinopathy and your options for help. Call Optical Masters today to learn more!
The eye is an amazingly complex organ that allows us to see the world around us. Did you know that the brain is actually what “sees” objects? Light rays reflect off the objects you see. This light enters the eyes through your cornea. This is the outer layer of your eye. The cornea will take that light and bend it (called refracting) so that the light rays pass through the pupil (the black circle in the center of the eye). The colored part of your eye—the iris—constricts or opens depending on the amount of light that you see. This will change the size of your pupil and how much light travels through your eye.
After the light has passed through the pupil, it will pass through the lens of the eye. This lens will also bend the light and focus that light on your retina. The retina sits at the very back part of your eye and plays the key role in how you interpret the images around you. The retina houses light-sensing nerve cells called rods and cones. These cells transform the light you see into electrical impulses. The optic nerve in the back of the eye will transfer those impulses from the retina to the brain. The brain then produces and projects the image of what your eyes are looking at. The retina truly is vital in being able to see.
Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body is unable to respond to or produce the hormone insulin. This increases the level of glucose in the blood (or blood sugar) and results in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates (and sugars). There are two types of diabetes. Most people with type 1 diabetes are born with it, whereas type 2 is developed over time due to lifestyle choices and weight. With type 1, the body does not produce insulin at all. The body needs insulin because it’s what breaks down the sugars and starches that you eat to use for energy. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes (95% of cases). With this type, your body does not use insulin correctly. Patients must receive medicine to help the body have enough insulin and to be able to use that insulin correctly. Blood sugar imbalances in the body can cause many problems such as diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that affects the blood vessels in the retina. According to studies, it’s the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness among working-age adults. The eyes become damaged due to chronically high blood sugar that is generally associated with diabetes. These high levels of blood sugar damage the small blood vessels in the retina. The blood vessels can then leak fluid or hemorrhage blood, which distorts vision. Diabetes progressively damages the blood vessels in the retina and with the accumulation of fluids, the retinal tissue will swell. This results in cloudy or blurred vision. With advanced diabetic retinopathy, abnormal blood vessels can form on the retina, which can lead to scarring and cell loss.
Diabetic retinopathy affects up to 80% of all patients who have diabetes for 10 years or more. However, research has found that at least 90% of cases can be prevented if proper treatment and monitoring of the eyes are done on a regular basis. Common symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include blurred or cloudy vision, floaters or spots in your vision, a dark or empty spot in the center of your vision or difficulty seeing at night.
You can help treat your diabetes symptoms by controlling your sugars properly. Keep a watchful eye on your blood pressure to keep it in check. Regular exercise as well can go a long way at slowing the progression and formation of diabetic retinopathy. When it comes to treatment in-office, laser treatment is common recourse eye doctors turn to. This treatment halts the blood and fluid that leaks into the retina. The laser beams of light will form small burns around the abnormal blood vessels. This helps to seal the leaks, which prevents swelling and blurred vision.
One of the best actions you can take when it comes to your eyes is receiving frequent eye tests. These can spot the early signs of diabetic retinopathy and can enable you to take action to control your diabetes before it affects your eyes. Regular eye tests can also help detect other diseases or conditions of the eyes before they become a problem. To schedule your eye test today, call our Optical Masters office at (303) 377-0752!