Common eye problems associated with diabetes are retinopathy, cataract and glaucoma. Retinopathy is a common complication in diabetics and it is estimated that almost all people with diabetes in their life time develop some grade of retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy can lead to loss of vision and a study reveals that nearly 60% of people with diabetes were not worried about losing their sight.
Preventing Loss of Vision
Early retinopathy shows no signs or symptoms, so the diabetics need to be screened timely and regularly before they develop signs and symptom, as it is more difficult to treat once the symptoms develop.
Timely screening by an ophthalmologist is of utmost importance; for Type – I diabetes screening has to be done within 5 years of diagnosis; for Type – II diabetes screening is to be done at the time of diagnosis and henceforth screening is done at an interval of every 1-2 years or depending on the status of retina.
Visual acuity test, fundoscopy, retinal photography, fluorescein angiography are the commonly used screening modalities in screening of retinopathy.
Also one should know the factors that increase the risk of retinopathy so that after screening a timely control of these factors reduces the risk for retinopathy. These factors are poor control of blood sugar level, high blood pressure, increased blood lipids, kidney disease. Smoking is known to exacerbate the problem.
All these risk factors are associated and influence each other, with blood glucose control and blood pressure control being the focus of prevention and treatment. Again both the above said factors depend on the triad of drugs, diet and regular physical activity.
Regulation – Keep in Control
Blood Glucose Level
For regulation of blood glucose, along with drugs (both oral and insulin as needed) and a regular visit to doctor, the diabetic should also develop a habit of systemic monitoring of blood glucose, self regulation.
So diet (under the supervision of a dietician if possible) and a regular physical activity like a brisk walk of 15 minutes . However one should keep in mind that the control should be gradually improved as a rapid decrease in blood glucose levels can actually worsen the situation.
High blood pressure can damage blood vessels supplying the retina of eye thus making it susceptible to retinopathy. Aggressive treatment of blood pressure with drugs is of particular importance in delaying and controlling the same.
High lipids levels can be a causative factor for loss of vision. So lipid lowering drugs along with diet management and exercise are helpful tools for prevention.
Smoking constricts the vessels supplying blood to the eye so smoking should be discouraged in diabetics.
A corrective treatment includes laser treatment and vitreous surgery but has its own limitations and cannot totally correct vision. So the golden rule of prevention better than cure applies here also.
Stem cell offers a ray of hope in future to those with diabetic retinopathy, but the research is still in its nascent stage. So, to sum up early detection and a proper management can prevent loss in vision in a diabetic due to retinopathy.