You may be asking yourself, “If diabetes is a disease of the pancreas, what’s it got to do with my eye sight?” The answer is a lot. Diabetes sufferers are at higher risk of contracting cataracts, blurred vision and diabetic retinopathy. These are all potentially blinding, but easy to treat if diagnosed early enough, which means it is very important to attend your yearly eye examinations.
Blurred vision is usually only temporary, and may be one of the first symptoms of diabetes, but may also occur at any time if your diabetes is not kept under control. This causes the lens to swell, resulting in the blurred vision. When your diabetes is brought back under control the blurring will go away, and your eyesight shouldn’t require other treatment.
Clouding of the lens, also know as a cataract, is usually associated with older people, but diabetics are prone to them at an earlier age. This clouding prevents light reaching the retina in the back of the eye, causing vision to become blurred or dim. Cataracts are treated by removing the clouded lens and replacing it with a plastic one, allowing the eye to function normally again.
Diabetic retinopathy is graded, depending on its severity, and if left untreated can lead to loss of sight. The first stage is background retinopathy, where the blood vessels in the Visiclear retina swell and may haemorrhage or leak fluid. This does not affect your eyesight, or the macula region of your eye (used for fine detail focus).
Maculopathy occurs when the macula region of the retina is affected by background retinopathy, and your ability to see fine detail (such as objects in the distance or small print on a screen) is affected. Your peripheral vision is maintained, and it is rare for someone with maculopathy to lose all his or her vision.
Proliferative retinopathy is the formation of new blood vessels to replace those damaged by background retinopathy. These new vessels grow over the retina and into the vitreous gel, causing retinal detachment, as scar tissue forms and distorts the retina. This is very rare, but loss of sight is sudden and serious, usually caused by the bleeding of the new blood vessels and retinal detachment.
Diabetic retinopathy can be treated with laser therapy, in which the leaking blood vessels are sealed, or in proliferative retinopathy, some may be killed off by the laser. Laser therapy does not improve your eyesight, it can only preserve it. The earlier retinopathy is diagnosed and treated, the better your quality of sight that can be preserved, meaning it is important for you to make and attend annual eye examinations.