Diabetes is a group of metabolic disorders. People with diabetes have high blood sugar because of their body cells not responding properly to the insulin or insulin production is insufficient or even both. The symptoms can be feeling more thirsty, frequent urination and hungry.
Diabetes is termed as a metabolism disorder. Metabolism refers to the way of how our bodies make use of the digested food for producing energy and growth. Major organs that are affected by diabetes are:
- Peripheral nerves and arteries.
Diabetes is considered as a leading cause of blindness between the age groups of 25 to 75. Diabetic retinopathy is a disease which affects the blood vessels in the back layer of the eye(i.e, retina). The main causes of this disease are high blood sugar levels, kidney disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.
The early stages of retinopathy are referred as non-proliferative retinopathy. Poor blood sugar levels in diabetic patient’s makes tiny blood vessels called capillaries present in the retina create weakened areas in the walls called micro aneurysms. Fluid leaks out near the macula, which can disrupt vision. This is known as macular edema. As retinopathy becomes more severe, some of the damaged blood vessels are closed off, resulting in blocking the blood supply to parts of the retina. During this stage of retinopathy, no new blood cells are grown.
The later stages of retinopathy are referred as proliferative retinopathy. During this stage, new blood vessels grow, in order to supply blood to the parts of the eye which are damaged in the early stages. These new blood cells are very fragile; bleeding from these cells can severely reduce vision capacity and even cause blindness. In some cases, bleeding can also lead to detachment of the retina from the wall of the eye.
Other eye diseases of diabetic patients include cataracts, glaucoma, and neovascular glaucoma (a severe form of glaucoma that damages eye vision). The main risk factors of developing diabetic retinopathy are
- Duration of diabetes for a long period of time
- Failure in taking diabetes medication on a regular basis, and
- Poor diet control
- Early stages of retinopathy, i.e, non-proliferative retinopathy is not detected and treated early, which may lead to proliferative retinopathy. An ophthalmologist who is specialized in the treatment of retinal problems will try to stop blood leakage by using a laser treatment process called photocoagulation.
Severe proliferative retinopathy may also be treated with medicines that slow down the abnormal growth of blood vessels in the retina. The growth of these vessels is activated by a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Anti-VEGF medicines block the effects of VEGF. An example of anti-VEGF medicine is Avastin.
But laser treatments may not always work in cases of retinal detachment or hemorrhages repair. In this case, doctor may prefer other surgical techniques to restore your vision.
Precautions need to be taken in order to prevent from causing blindness
- Early detection of diabetes
- Regular eye-checkup for diabetic patients
- Control of blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure levels
- If you identify any signs of diabetic retinopathy, immediately seek an ophthalmologist.