Diabetes is a chronic disease that appears when the patient’s pancreas does not segregat enough insulin or when the insulin produced by the organism is not used efficiently. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. That is why a common effect of poorly monitored diabetis is hyperglycemia, a situation that eventually damages the performance of several organs.
There are two types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes. It is believed to be caused by an autoimmune attack, whose causes are not known with certainty, on the cells that produce insulin within the pancreas. Therefore, the organ stops producing it and patients need to rely on insulin. It cannot be prevented.
- Type 2 diabetes. The body of people affected by type 2 diabetes produces insulin, but at insufficient amount or of low quality. In this case, the onset seems to be related with overweight, a poor nutrition and genetic factors, that may favour it. There are methods to prevent it.
Moreover, there is the gestational diabetes, that can appear during pregnancy. In thos case, the hyperglycemia levels are higher than usual, but lower than the stablished ones for the diagnosis of diabetes. The patients with this disorder have a higher risk of complications during pregnancy and labor and a higher risk of suffering from type 2 diabetes in the future, both the mother and the children.
Eye diseases associated to diabetes
Some disorders and complications in vision associated to diabetes are:
- Diabetic retinopathy, a vascular disease associated to diabetes consisting in high glucose levels that alter blood vessel walls and make such walls more permeable, thus leading to a series of vision problems.
- Vitreous humor hemorrhages, associated to diabetic retinopathy.
- Diabetic macular edema, where the central area in the retina is filled with fluid.
- Retinal detachment caused by its traction.
- Cataracts, caused by a higher predisposition of diabetic people to suffer them.
- Neovascular glaucoma, a type of secondary glaucoma associated to diabetes mellitus. People with diabetes are 40% more likely to suffer from glaucoma, a disease consisting in the increase of intraocular pressure that causes damage in the optic nerve.
What can I do to prevent diabetes from affecting my vision?
- Go to regular ophthalmological examinations, at least once a year, in order to detect possible complications of type 1 and 2 diabetes, as 1 in 3 people affected by diabetes suffers some kind of diabetic retinopathy. During the examination, the ophthalmologist will dilate your pupils in order to examine the eye blood vessels and detect possible damages.
- Eat a healthy diet, with low-fat food with appropriate amounts of nutrients, such as vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, fruit and dairy products, and avoiding sugar intake.
- If you suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure, it is essential to control the blood pressure and glucose levels, as well as to have healthy habits in order to keep such levels within the appropriate limits. This control may contribute to reduce possible eye damage.
- Verify your levels of “good” and “bad” cholesterol. High bad cholesterol levels may cause damage in blood vessels.
- If you smoke, you should quit. Tobacco consumption causes alterations in blood vessels, thus increasing the chances of suffering eye conditions.
- Do physical exercise following your doctor recommendations on type and duration of such exercise. Control your blood sugar levels before and throughout sport practice. Exercise may reduce blood sugar levels.
When should I go to the ophthalmologist? Warning signs
Beyond regular examinations, you should go to the ophthalmologist in case of:
- Blurred vision
- Trouble reading signs or books
- Double vision
- Pain in one or both eyes
- Eye redness over a sustained period
- Feeling of pressure in the eye
- Eye floaters or spots in vision
- Straight lines seem bent
- General worsening in vision