Nov 10, 2020
Those with longstanding high blood sugar levels often suffer with Diabteic retinopathy. In this, the damage to the blood vessels extends to the retina in the back of the eye involving leakage of blood and fluid into the eye which makes the vision blurry
Even as India and indeed the world, is grappling with Covid-19, non-communicable diseases have somehow been relegated to a low priority status. And of the NCDs, Diabetes, a chronic diseasewhich has afflicted around 77 million adult Indians has proved to be one of the major components of comorbidities for Covid-19 patients.Yet, most people do not know that regardless of Covid-19, Diabetes also casts a severe impact on their eyes and larger ocular health. Therefore, it is important that a diabetic patient must also be aware of the risks to his eyes andas such takes adequate precautions in that regard.
How does Diabetes impact your eyes?
First it is important to understand that Diabetes is often characterised by an excessive glucose in your bloodstream, a specific condition called hyperglycemia, because of absence of insulin or under-performing insulin. However, this excessive sugar can not only impair tissues of your eyes, generally manifested in swellings and blurring of vision; more specifically, it can also cause serious damage to the blood vessels in your eyes. This can lead to serious eye health issues.
Types of eye conditions created/aggravated by Diabetes
Diabetic Retinopathy: This is one of the most frequent instances of the impact of Diabetes on the eyes. Those with longstanding high blood sugar levels often suffer with this condition. In this, the damage to the blood vessels extends to the retina in the back of the eye involving leakage of blood and fluid into the eye which makes the vision blurry. Significantly, in the early stages, since the eye doesn’t make new blood vessels, it is called non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy. However, as the disease progresses and the condition worsens, it can lead to what is called proliferative diabetic retinopathy. In this, new blood vessels begin to grow abnormally within the retinawhich either bleed a lot or form a scar tissue leading to partial or complete blockage of vision.
Diabetic macular edema/ischemia: Macula is not only the most sensitive part of the retina, it is the functional centre of the latterthat allows us to read, recognise faces and to drive. But because ofthe extraordinarily high blood sugar, there is swelling in the macula leading to what is called macular edema and the subsequent weakening or distorting of vision. At the same time, when blood vessels prevent blood from reaching macula, it leads to a condition called macular ischemia, which again can impinge on the sharpness of your vision.
What should be done?
First and foremost, knowing and recognising that Diabetes can have serious implications for your eyes is important.
Second, identifying symptoms early is the key. Some of the symptoms include getting blurred and wavy vision, fluctuating vision, impaired colour or faded colour vision, sensitivity to light, glared vision, spots or dark strings in vision. One must consult a doctor on finding of any of these symptoms.
Third, on experiencing sudden flashes of light and an increase in spots, alarm bells should ring and one must visit the doctor immediately. Fourth, a full-dilated eye exam must be undergone at least once a year. Fifth, remember that along with keeping track of your blood sugar levels, you must also monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
The writer is Dr Apoorv Grover Medical Director and Vitreoretina Consultant at Vision Eye Centre, New Delhi
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