Diabetes and your Eyes
Did you know that an eye examination can be the first clue to identifying diabetes and other hidden health concerns? Finding these issues early can give you a better chance at preventing damage through early treatment and management.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is defined as a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body's ability to produce and/or use insulin.
One of the well-known effects of diabetes is eye and vision damage caused by diabetic retinopathy. This means that delicate blood vessels in the eye swell or bleed. They may also grow abnormally on the retina itself. This allows unprocessed blood sugars, fats, and proteins to leak out of weakened blood vessels. That's what damages the retina and can cause vision loss.
Some surprising facts about diabetes.
- 422 million people worldwide have diabetes.
- In Hong Kong, 1 in 10 adults have been diagnosed with diabetes.
- In Singapore, 1 in 8 adults have been diagnosed with diabetes.
- Roughly 90% of diabetes-related blindness can be avoided by getting an annual eye examination.
- Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness.
- Diabetes is predicted to become the seventh leading cause of death in the world by the year 2030.
- Lifestyle risks for diabetes are physical inactivity, poor diet, and obesity.
- Genetics, ethnicity, and geographical location can influence risk factors.
- Others at higher risk include older individuals, those with gestational diabetes, and babies weighing more than nine pounds at birth.
Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that may occur in people who have diabetes. It causes progressive damage to the retina, the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye. Diabetic retinopathy is a serious sight-threatening complication of diabetes.
Diabetes interferes with the body's ability to use and store sugar (glucose). The disease is characterized by too much sugar in the blood, which can cause damage throughout the body, including the eyes.
Over time, diabetes damages small blood vessels throughout the body, including the retina. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when these tiny blood vessels leak blood and other fluids. This causes the retinal tissue to swell, resulting in cloudy or blurred vision. The condition usually affects both eyes. The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely they will develop diabetic retinopathy. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness.
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:
- Seeing spots or floaters
- Blurred vision
- Having a dark or empty spot in the center of your vision
- Difficulty seeing well at night