Diabetes is a serious chronic illness that affects about 422 million people globally and is still on the rise, and in 2019 alone it took the lives of 1.5 million adults, nearly half of whom were under 70. The high levels of blood glucose (blood sugar) can lead to damage throughout your body, including your kidneys, circulatory system, skin, nerves, heart, and digestive system.
The damage it can do to your nerves can even cause a problem in your eyes known as diabetic retinopathy, which not only affects your vision but may possibly lead to blindness. If you have diabetes and you’re at risk for eye problems related to it, we can help you figure out what to do next. If you live in the Muncie, Indiana, area and you’re at risk for diabetic complications like retinopathy, Dr. Jeffrey Rapkin and his dedicated medical staff at Retina Consultants of Muncie provide the help you need.
Let’s examine this problem by looking at how diabetes affects your eyes, what the risk factors are for diabetic retinopathy, and what we can do to manage and treat it.
With diabetes, your body has a problem with insulin, which causes too much glucose to rush into your bloodstream and damage the nerves in your body. This weakens blood vessels in your retinas, leading to leakage that causes one of two stages of this illness: nonproliferative diabetes-related retinopathy or proliferative diabetes-related retinopathy. The former is the early stage of this condition, where closing blood vessels lead to poor blood flow and retinal leaks. The latter sees the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the retina that leak fluid into your vitreous (the white gel-like substance in your eyes) and leads to vision problems.
If you’re a diabetic, you’re already at risk for this complication, but other factors can play a role in your potential for developing it, such as having diabetes for many years, poor blood sugar control, hypertension, using tobacco products, high cholesterol, and pregnancy. African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans are also at higher risk of this complication if they have diabetes.
If it’s not treated early enough, diabetic retinopathy can lead to vitreous hemorrhage, retinal detachment, glaucoma, and blindness.
Treatment options vary depending on what stage of the disease you’re in, and if you’re at risk, there are things you can do to prevent it:
Avoiding diabetic retinopathy means keeping healthy blood vessels, which can be maintained by monitoring your blood sugar regularly and staying within normal levels, and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking will also reduce your risks, as well as engaging in moderate exercise and getting regular eye exams.
To treat this condition, there are injections, laser treatments, and surgeries to repair damage and preserve vision. Injections of anti-VEGF medications can reduce swelling and improve vision, laser therapies like photocoagulation can shrink and seal blood vessels to preserve vision, and a vitrectomy surgical procedure can remove cloudy fluid that affects your vision.
Diabetes-related eye problems are serious and can lead to terrible complications for your vision, but there are ways to avoid and manage it, and we’re here to help. If you’re at risk for this diabetic complication, make an appointment with Dr. Rapkin and his team at Retina Consultants of Muncie today to keep your eyes healthy.