Eye Health And Diabetes: All Things You Need To Know

Eye Health And Diabetes

Introduction

Diabetes or diabetes mellitus is a medical condition wherein the blood sugar level of the patient is higher than normal. Diabetes has become an increasingly common illness today, owing to a stressful lifestyle coupled with poor eating habits, and even substance abuse. 

The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which is responsible for the absorption of sugar into the cells. When the pancreas are not functioning properly, insulin secretion goes off balance and leads to either insulin resistance or high insulin sensitivity in the body. Both situations lead to diabetes. While insulin resistance is the cause behind type 2 diabetes, increased insulin sensitivity leads to type 1 diabetes. However, type 2 diabetes is more common and also a riskier health condition than type 1.

Human eyes are no less than a biological marvel. Up to a certain limit and distance, our eyes are equal to, or maybe even better than a camera when it comes to registering images. Our eyes enable us to see a wide spectrum of colors, which shape our very visual perception of this world. The image of this world in your brain is formed solely because of your eyes. Good eye health is necessary as straining the eyes too much can weaken the eyesight, or even lead to blindness in some cases. Many illnesses target the eyes, and diabetes is one of them.

How does Diabetes affect Eye Health?

If you are a diabetic, you are automatically at an increased risk of eye diseases, with the most common one being Diabetic Eye Disease or Diabetic Retinopathy. Diabetes causes a buildup of sugar in blood vessels all over the body, thus damaging the blood vessels. When this nerve damage reaches the eyes, it damages the blood vessels that carry blood to the eyes. This situation may lead to diabetic retinopathy. 

Some Minor Eye Illnesses

Other than the above-mentioned ailments, diabetes also causes other eye issues, viz. cataract, glaucoma, and blurry vision. Let us read about these a little more.

  • Cataract – The natural lens of the eye may get clouded due to buildup of dust and other factors such as aging. This clouding of the eye lens is called a cataract. This clouded lens can be replaced with an artificial one via a simple surgical procedure.
  • Glaucoma – High intraocular pressure causes damage to the optic nerve which is the main reason for glaucoma. If not treated, it can cause permanent blindness. 

Although glaucoma cannot be cured, abiding by the treatment could prevent vision loss.

  • Blurry Vision – Swelling of the eye lens due to leakage of fluid into the eye causes blurry vision. It can be treated by eye drops or by a pair of new lenses or spectacles after going through a little vision examination.

Preventive Measures

Even though diabetics are at a higher risk of eye diseases, following some preventive measures can significantly reduce their chances of contracting any eye disease. These preventive measures can also help improve your vision. Some of these measures are as follows:

  • Checking Blood Pressure – Hypertensive patients who are diabetics need to be more cautious when it comes to eye health. It is better to have your blood pressure checked at every visit to the doctor if you are someone who is both a patient of hypertension and diabetes. For a hypertensive diabetic, the normal blood pressure is below 130/80 mm Hg. 
  • Proper Diet – Taking a proper diet is the key to effective management of diabetes. Taking a diet rich in all kinds of macronutrients and micronutrients will not only improve your overall health, but it will also help you control your blood sugar levels. Consequently, this will protect your eye health. 
  • Quit Smoking – Smoking primarily affects the blood vessels, which could further increase your risk of eye disease, especially if you are a diabetic. Hence, consider quitting smoking. The job is quite tough, but do not hesitate to seek help just because it is tough to quit smoking. Your doctor can be of great help in this regard
  • Exercise – We all know the benefits of performing any moderate to high-intensity exercise and yet we still ignore it. If you are a diabetic, exercise should be a part of your daily life as it largely impacts your blood sugar levels. Exercise helps keep your blood sugar levels in control, consequently reducing your risk of eye diseases.
  • Cholesterol – When it comes to cholesterol, you cannot be negligent. LDL and HDL are the two types of cholesterol present in human blood. However, while HDL is good for health, it is LDL that causes problems. High cholesterol levels can prove to be fatal for you if you’re a diabetic.  High cholesterol can also cause nerve blockages which can lead to other medical complications. The same applies in case of eyes. Higher levels of LDL can block the blood vessels connected to the eye and hence lead to ophthalmological issues. Make it a habit to have your cholesterol checked at regular and frequent intervals.
  • Regular Eye Checkup – If you are a diabetic, it is necessary for you to regularly visit your ophthalmologist. A comprehensive eye check-up at regular intervals will not only help in the early diagnosis of eye disease, but it will also give the doctor time to prepare a suitable treatment.

Treatments

Even after taking adequate preventive steps, it is possible that one might get an eye disease like diabetic retinopathy and further even diabetic macular edema (DME). In this case, the doctors follow a two-pronged approach. First, they target the main problem, which is diabetes. This is done by insulin therapy and making certain long term changes to one’s lifestyle. Insulin therapy consists of injecting synthetic insulin hormones into the body. Some of the common injectable insulin names are Novolin R, Humalog, Apidra, and Novolog.

Secondly, they focus on the treatment of your eye. For this, you are advised to visit an ophthalmologist who will prescribe the required treatment. Your ophthalmologist may prescribe you the following drugs or injections to treat your eye.

  • Anti-VEGF shots – For inhibiting the growth of the VGEF protein that creates blood vessels. Eyelea, Avastin, and Lucentis are the three anti-VGEF injections used in this treatment.

 

  • Focal-Grid Macular Surgery

 

  • Corticosteroids – Steroid drugs that target inflammation to reduce retinal swelling.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is necessary for you to take special care of your eyesight if you are a diabetic. Making adequate lifestyle changes can reduce your chances of critical illnesses like DME. Treating DME is a complex and time taking process, while minor ailments like cataract can be treated with surgery. Therefore, it is advisable you undergo eye checkups at regular intervals.