How Diabetes Can Affect Your Sight
When you are initially diagnosed with diabetes, the first thing that you may think of is diet and injections. While there are many lifestyle changes that come about a result of a diabetes diagnosis, the truth is that there is one factor that many patients fail to recognise. Sight loss is a massive issue with many diabetics and the problem remains that despite medical advice, many patients are not aware that they may have problems with their sight, and may actually experience major sight loss as a result of their condition.
Diabetes is the name given to a group of disorders relating to blood sugar regulation. There are three kinds: diabetes type one, diabetes type two, and gestational diabetes. Type one occurs when the pancreas stops producing insulin; type two occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin; and gestational diabetes is a side effect of pregnancy, which usually disappears after the baby is born. Initial symptoms include extreme thirst, increased urination, headaches, tiredness, and blurred vision. Your doctor will be able to diagnose you with a simple blood test and advise on the next steps for treatment.
If diagnosed with diabetes, it is likely that you will have to make some significant lifestyle changes. You will have to continually monitor your blood sugar levels, self-administer insulin if needed, and improve diet and exercise. You will also have to visit your doctor regularly and be aware of the risk of hypoglycemia, which can result in coma and even death for those with diabetes. If you fail to keep checked in with your doctor or to be careful with your lifestyle, you could experience sight loss as well as other side effects.
Diabetic retinopathy is the name given to sight loss caused by diabetes. It occurs when consistently high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels in the retina, resulting in sight damage or sight loss. Sight loss happens across three distinct steps:
- Background retinopathy. High blood sugar levels cause the blood vessels in your retina to bulge and possibly burst, causing bleeding behind the eyes. This is not usually noticeable, but the damage persists over time.
- Pre-proliferative retinopathy. Continued high blood sugar levels causes more damage and bleeding in the blood vessels in the eye. The damage takes longer to repair and is far more serious.
- Proliferative retinopathy. The damage is more widespread and the blood vessels find it very difficult to repair. This stage is where loss of vision occurs.
The good news is that if diabetic retinopathy is caught in time, it can be treated. The important thing is to keep an eye out for symptoms and to keep visiting your doctor for regular check-ups. The symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include eye pain, blurred vision, and floating shapes in your field of vision. Your doctor will be able to give you specific advice on how to improve your vision if you’re having trouble, but usually you will need to keep a better eye on your blood sugar levels, insulin, diet, and exercise. It is especially important to go for annual check-ups, as the initial symptoms of diabetic retinopathy are not always obvious to the person who has it.
What can you do if you’re diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy? The most important thing to remember is that you should not panic. Even if the damage to your vision is not reversible, it is possible to live a full and balanced life as a blind or visually impaired person. As with any disability, you just need to make the necessary changes in your life to ensure that you don’t face barriers. You may need to make some changes to your home and if your vision is very poor, you may have to stop driving. However, you may also qualify for a disabled parking permit, depending on the requirements in your state. Even if you can’t drive yourself, a companion will be able to use a handicap parking spot on your behalf if you are accompanying them.
If you choose to undergo treatment for advanced diabetic retinopathy, there are several options that exist. You can have an operation to remove scar tissue from your retina, but this is obviously a very delicate procedure so make sure you visit a fully qualified and experienced surgeon in this field. Other treatments include local injections to your eye and laser therapy, which can help remove the scarring.
While sight loss is not an obvious side effect of diabetes, it is still important to be vigilant. Stay friendly with your doctor and let them give you regular check-ups. Voice any concerns you may have, no matter how minor you think that they are. It’s better to be safe than sorry!