How can diabetes affect your eyes?

How can diabetes affect your eyes? This is a question that many people with diabetes often ask and is an area of concern for diabetics. This is one of the areas of management that a diabetic must be educated on after first becoming newly diagnosed.

In the eyes of diabetics, an eye disease called diabetic retinopathy can develop which can lead to bad vision and even blindness. This is because of narrowing of the blood vessels in the back of the eyes which get weak and can lead to blood and fluid leaking into the retina from these weakened blood vessels. The retina is the part of the eye that sends visual images to the brain.

There are two classes of diabetic retinopathy – non-proliferative and proliferative. Non-proliferative is when the walls of the blood vessels weaken and become porous. The smaller capillaries may even become blocked. These blocked vessels also stop parts of the retina from getting oxygen. This causes blurring but not blindness and in most diabetics never goes further than mild changes, although it can progress to severe blurred vision. Diabetics with non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy can develop new vessel growth on the surface of the retina and move into proliferative diabetic retinopathy quite easily.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy causes these new but abnormally weak blood vessels from the retina to rupture and bleed into the gel that fills the eye disturbing the ability to process light images. Scar tissue can form and shrink and this shrinkage can pull at the retina creating a form of retinal detachment. When the retina detaches you need to have surgery to reattach the retina but with poor blood circulation this surgery can be difficult to heal. Permanent detached retinas can lead to permanent blindness.

Early diabetic retinopathy can only be found by examining the eyes for blocked small vessels or small bulges in the blood vessel walls by dilating the pupils and examining the back of the eye. Your eye doctor can also inject a dye and photograph the circulation of the blood in the retina. This process is called flurescein angiography.

All patients with diabetes should visit their eye doctor at least once or twice a year and these checkups will be able to find any diabetic eye disease early. These eye exams will need to include dilating of the pupils so your eye doctor must know that you are a diabetic.

It is also important that if you smoke to stop, as smoking prevents proper blood circulation. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Smoking is not only bad for diabetics but is a bad lifestyle habit for everyone.

How can diabetes affect your eyes and how can it be prevented? It can only be prevented by constantly monitoring your blood glucose levels and keeping this level under control.

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