The secondary effects that diabetes has on your body are some of the most serious health issues you can experience from this disease. The impact of diabetes on your eyes can be so severe that you can have permanent vision loss. There is no cure for this so you must stay ahead of the disease with frequent diabetic eye examinations. Here is what you need to know about how diabetes hurts your eyes and how to prevent it from taking your eyesight.
Diabetes and the Circulatory System
Your diabetes affects your eyes through the blood vessels that travel through them. The most serious consequences occur when it's the blood vessels on the retina that are impacted. This is called diabetic retinopathy and your eye doctor will be most interested in this area of your eye during an eye exam. In severe cases of this disease, you can experience full or partial blindness.
Two Forms of Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetes can impact the blood vessels in your eye two ways. Both can affect your vision severely and neither can be cured.
Nonproliferative - With this form, tiny blood vessels with weak walls develop in the eyes. The pressure in the blood vessel forces fluid out of it and onto the surface of the retina. As the fluid builds up on the retina, light is blocked from hitting it. This can create blurry vision and difficulty reading in low light.
Proliferative - Other blood vessels form on the retina that create scar tissue. The scar tissue puts pressure on the retina. If it should pull the retina away from the back of the eye, you will have some level of blindness that cannot be reversed.
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
The best way to keep diabetes from affecting your eyes is to have periodic eye exams so your doctor can look for these weak blood vessels. You can then start treatment to slow down the development of the disease. You also need to be aware of some of the symptoms that can indicate diabetic retinopathy. The following symptoms can mean a different eye problem, but take no chances and see your eye doctor at the first sign of one of more of these problems:
- you can't focus on objects clearly
- dark shadows appear in your vision
- gray patches float across your vision
- you have mild aching or a feeling of pressure in your eye
Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy
Since there is no cure for diabetic retinopathy, the treatments are focused on limiting the damage to your vision. The sooner treatment is started, the less impact the disease will have on your vision. Should your eye doctor discover the weakened blood vessels in your eye, they will recommend one or more of the following treatment options:
Medication - You can use eye drops that slow down the development of the weakened blood vessels in your eye. This treatment can be repeated when there are signs of new growth. An injection of medication directly into the eye is another way this is administered. This also can be repeated to prevent the disease from impacting your vision.
Laser surgery - A laser is used to make tiny holes in the deformed blood vessels. This causes them to shrink and the fluid in them to dry up. The fluid that has already leaked out onto the retina cannot be removed this way so any existing impact to your vision cannot be reversed.
To learn more about diabetic retinopathy or to get tested for the condition, contact an eye doctor like those at Family Eye Health & Contact Lens Center.