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Do not lose sight of diabetic eye disease!

What is Diabetic Eye Disease?

The eye functions like a camera. Light enters through the front of the eye, the cornea and gets focused by the lens to the retina. The retina changes the light into nerve signals and sends them to the brain. So without a retina, the eye cannot communicate with the brain, making vision impossible.

Diabetic eye disease refers to eye problems developed as a complication of this disease. Cataract – clouding of the lens, Glaucoma – increased fluid pressure in the eye that leads to optic nerve damage and loss of vision and Diabetic retinopathy – damage to the blood vessels in the retina. In addition, diabetes can cause palsies of the nerves that supply the muscles of the eye.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

The retina is a thin membrane, covering the back of the eye. This membrane receives light and converts it to signals to the brain. The retina gets its food supply from various blood vessels that are present in it, but in patients with diabetes, the retinal blood vessels develop tiny leaks which cause fluid or blood to seep into the retina, which becomes wet and swollen and cannot work properly. This is called Diabetic Retinopathy.

The earliest phase of the disease is called background diabetic retinopathy. The vessels in the retina become weakened and leak, forming dot-like hemorrhages leading to edema in the retina and decreased vision.

The next stage is known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy caused because of decreased oxygen supply. New, fragile blood vessels develop as the circulatory system attempts to maintain adequate oxygen levels within the retina through neovascularization. Unfortunately these delicate vessels hemorrhage easily. Blood may leak into the retina causing spots, large scars and decreased vision and retinal detachment.

Signs and Symptoms:

Some symptoms of diabetic retinopathy are: Blurred vision (this is often linked to blood sugar levels), appearance of floating objects in front of the eye, flashes of light when closing and opening the eyes and loss of vision.

All diabetics are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. During pregnancy, it may worsen. The longer a person has diabetes, the greater the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Nearly half of all diabetics will develop some degree of diabetic retinopathy during their lifetime.

Why are we concerned with Diabetic Retinopathy?

1.Diabetic retinopathy is an important cause of blindness
2.Nearly 20 percent of diabetics develop diabetic retinopathy
3.It often has no early warning signals or pain. Vision may not change until the disease becomes severe.
4.Trained ophthalmologists are required to detect and treat diabetes related retinal disease

Even in advanced cases, the disease may progress a long way without symptoms; hence regular eye examinations for people with diabetes are very important. Diabetics can reduce the possibilities of eye complications by routine examinations with the ophthalmologist. Many problems can be treated with greater success when caught early.

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