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How Diabetes Affects the Eyes

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Dr. Praveen Muraly, Senior Consultant, Vitreo Retina, The Eye Foundation, Bangalore, India explains how a person with diabetes is at an increased risk of suffering from various eye diseases.

Diabetes is a silent killer, which affects all the major organs of the human body, including the eyes.

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication caused in the retina, the light sensitive part of the eye, due to changes in blood sugar.

“Diabetes damages the blood vessels present in the retina and does not support the growth of new blood vessels. Ultimately, the blood vessels start leaking fluids at the back of the eye. Such developments can lead to total loss of vision, if not treated on time.”

You are at a risk of developing diabetic retinopathy if you have:

  • Prolonged diabetes
  • Poorly controlled blood sugar levels
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels

Diabetic retinopathy in early stages may not present with any symptoms. The symptoms are evident only when the disease has advanced significantly.

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy can include:

  • Loss of vision
  • Appearance of floaters in the field of vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Deterioration of colour vision

The diagnosis can include:

  • Dilated eye exam
  • Vision tests
  • Optical coherence tomography to detect fluid leakage in retinal tissue
  • Fluorescein angiography to look for leaking/damaged eye blood vessels

The treatment will depend on the severity and the type of diabetic retinopathy.

Steps to slow down or prevent  the development of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Keep a check on the blood sugar levels
  • Manage your blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Get your eyes checked regularly
  • Cut down on alcohol and quit smoking

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