To some, the fact that diabetes, a condition that affects millions of Americans alone, can affect our eyesight along with our general health, is quite shocking. Nevertheless, diabetes proves year after year that it can have serious consequences, ones that are far more severe than what may first come to mind.
Diabetes Mellitus, or more commonly known as simply diabetes, is a health condition where there is too much glucose, or sugar, in the bloodstream at any given time. There are two common types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas stops producing insulin, which is the hormone responsible for transporting glucose into cells to be used as energy. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body is constantly exposed to elevated glucose levels, mostly due to the diet, so that the insulin produced isn’t enough to transport all the glucose into the cells. In general, diabetes can increase the risk of serious health conditions, such as obesity, cardiovascular problems, or strokes.
But how can diabetes affect the eye? The constant elevated levels of glucose in the bloodstream, causes damage to the blood vessels in the body, especially the smaller capillaries. Specifically in the blood vessels of the retina, the processing region of the eye, tearing can occur when glucose lodges within the small vessels. When this tearing occurs, blood can leak into the vitreous humor, the gel-like substance within the eye that gives it shape. This may cause black floating spots in the field of vision.
There are some treatment for diabetic retinopathy. One is an injection with anti-VEGF drugs that can help slow or reverse the condition. Physicians can also use lasers to help reduce the size of the blood vessels, reducing the bleeding and its effects. If the condition is severe enough where the bleeding has caused scarring within the eye, a vitrectomy surgery could be recommended.
The good news is that the chances of developing diabetic retinopathy can be changed by controlling the diabetes condition itself and your health habits. Try to maintain blood sugar levels that are close to normal. Additionally, be sure to participate in some sort of exercise or athletic activity a few times a week, if not every day. Controlling blood pressure is another way to prevent diabetic retinopathy, to be sure to avoid foods that have a high sodium content.
The consequences of diabetes can be severe. If you do suffer from diabetes, be sure to contact a physician about your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.