People with diabetes can have an eye disease called diabetic retinopathy. This is when high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels in the retina. These blood vessels can swell and leak. Or they can close, stopping blood from passing through. Sometimes abnormal new blood vessels grow on the retina.
Diabetic retinopathy, known as die-uh-BET-ik ret-ih-NOP-uh-thee, is a complication of diabetes that impacts the eyes. This condition arises due to harm inflicted upon the blood vessels within the retina, the light-sensitive tissue situated at the rear of the eye.
It is important to control blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol and get your eyes tested for diabetic retinopathy. Uncontrolled levels of blood sugar in people with diabetes progressively damage the blood vessels inside the retina, which is at the back of the eye. A healthy retina aids good vision. People with diabetic retinopathy experience blurring and dark spots in their vision, usually in both eyes.
Symptoms or changes in eyesight may not be noticeable in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. As the condition progresses with time, it gradually affects a person’s sight. If the condition is ignored for a long time, it could result in complete loss of sight. Timely screening is crucial to prevent permanent damage.
- Having type 1 or type 2 diabetes
- You have lived with diabetes for over 5 years
- Your HbA1c is above 5.7%
- You have high blood pressure
- You have kidney complications and other nutritional and genetic risk factors
- You are pregnant
Complications: Arising from Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is characterized by the emergence of irregular blood vessels within the retina, giving rise to potential serious vision complications:
Vitreous hemorrhage: The newly formed blood vessels might release blood into the gel-like substance that fills the center of the eye. In minor cases, you may perceive a few dark spots (floaters). However, in more severe instances, the blood could fill the vitreous chamber, leading to complete vision obstruction.
Normally, vitreous hemorrhage on its own doesn’t induce permanent vision impairment. The blood often dissipates from the eye over a span of weeks or months. As long as your retina remains undamaged, your vision will likely revert to its prior clarity.
Retinal detachment: The abnormal blood vessels linked with diabetic retinopathy prompt the development of scar tissue, capable of pulling the retina away from the rear of the eye. This can result in the presence of floating spots in your visual field, occurrences of light flashes, or even substantial vision loss.
Glaucoma: Fresh blood vessels may sprout in the front part of the eye (iris) and disrupt the natural drainage of eye fluid, leading to increased intraocular pressure. Elevated pressure can harm the nerve responsible for transmitting visual signals from the eye to the brain (optic nerve).
Complete vision loss: Diabetic retinopathy, along with macular edema, glaucoma, or a combination of these conditions, has the potential to culminate in total vision deprivation, particularly if these conditions are not effectively managed.
- Make sure to get a yearly retina examination
- Take prescribed medicines regularly
- Test for blood sugar (HbA1c) and keep blood pressure under control
- Follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly
- Visit an eye specialist promptly if this is recommended