I have just heard that one of my relatives who has diabetes has just be diagnosed with a vision problem called Diabetic Retinopathy, so I have done some research and here is a short explanation that may help you or someone you know.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes which affects the tiny blood vessels in the light-sensitive tissue called the retina that lines the back of the eye. The retina detects light and converts it to signals sent through the optic nerve to the brain. Diabetic retinopathy can cause the blood vessels to bleed or leak fluid, thereby distorting vision. Without treatment, diabetic retinopathy can cause loss of vision and blindness.
Diabetes interferes with the body’s ability to use and store sugar. The disease is characterised by too much sugar in the blood, which can cause damage throughout the body. Low vision is one symptom of diabetes, other symptoms include:
- increased thirst and hunger
- weight gain or loss
- frequent urination
- skin infections, and wounds that heal slowly
Diabetic retinopathy affects a large percentage of all patients who have had diabetes for 20 years or more. It is also one the leading causes of blindness for people aged 20 to 64 years.
Often diabetic retinopathy may not be detected until vision loss occurs so people with diabetes should get a comprehensive eye examination when diabetes is first diagnosed and then these tests should be repeated on a regular basis. Early diagnosis and treatment can usually prevent severe vision loss.
Studies have shown that controlling diabetes can slow the onset and worsening of diabetic retinopathy. People who monitor and maintain a normal glucose level are significantly less likely to develop the disease than those who don’t. Good glucose control also reduces the likelihood of developing other health problems including kidney and nerve diseases. Trials have also shown that controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels and avoiding tobacco can also reduce the risk of vision loss.
There are several therapies that may be used alone or in combination for treating the disease and reducing vision loss, however they are not a cure for the disease. These treatments are:
- Laser surgery – the heat from a laser is used to seal or destroy the leaking blood vessels in the retina.
- Medication – several medications are available to be used in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy. These medications are injected into the eye.
- Vitrectomy – this treatment involves the use of surgical instruments to remove the damaged blood vessels. Removing this material allows light rays to focus on the retina again.
Vision lost caused by diabetic retinopathy is sometimes irreversible. However, early detection, regular monitoring and treatment can reduce the risk of blindness by a significant amount.
Our goal at EZiD is to assist all people living with low vision by simplifying some of the decisions they have to make every day, for more information about how we can help please use this link.