& Eye Disease
You may have heard that diabetes causes eye problems
and may lead to blindness. Just because you have
diabetes this does not necessarily mean that your
sight will be affected, but there is a higher risk.
your diabetes is well controlled then you are less
likely to have problems, or they may be less
serious. However, if there are complications that
affect the eyes then this may result in loss of
sight. Therefore, it is vital that you have your
eyes checked regularly.
Most sight loss due to diabetes can be prevented,
but it is vital that it is diagnosed early. This can
only be detected by a detailed examination of the
eye. Therefore, regular, annual eye examinations are
extremely important, as you may not realise that
there is anything wrong with your eyes until it is
You may have
heard that it's important to get an annual dilated
eye exam, but you may not understand what the doctor
is looking for and why this particular exam is
By widening the
area of your eye through which your doctor can see,
a dilated eye exam provides a good look at the
inside of your eye, including the back wall or
retina, the optic nerve, and all the blood vessels.
Without dilating or enlarging the pupil, your eye
exam would be like watching television through a
keyhole. You might see some things, but you'd be
missing a lot of the picture.
Your dilated eye
exam will probably be part of a complete screening,
where the doctor will:
eyelids, lashes, and surfaces of your eyes
glaucoma by measuring the pressure in your eyes
(usually by blowing a puff of air into each eye
or by using eye drops to anesthetize the eye's
surface and touching each one gently with an
instrument called a tonometer)
None of this including the medicated eye drops used
to dilate your pupils hurts a bit.
The eye drops
work by telling the iris the colored muscle that
surrounds each black pupil to relax and stay wide
open. Without the drops, your irises would tighten
up as soon as the doctor shines a light into your
eyes, and there'd be very little to see.
Once your pupils
have been enlarged, the doctor uses a small beam of
light and a magnifying lens to get a close-up look.
If you have diabetes, your doctor will be on alert
for leaking blood vessels a possible sign of
diabetic eye disease or retinopathy or damage to the
optic nerve. In addition, because the eye is the
only place a doctor can get an external look at your
blood vessels, your eye exam can provide clues to
your overall health.
Your doctor will be looking for signs of high blood
pressure, high cholesterol, or even evidence of some
brain disorders. After the test, your vision will be
a bit blurred and you'll be sensitive to light for a
few hours. Try not to plan any activities that
require precise vision (such as reading the fine
print on a contract). Bring along a pair of dark
glasses, or ask the doctor's office for a disposable
pair. And if you think you may have trouble, ask a
friend to drive you home.
People with diabetes are at risk for three types of
eye disease: retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma.
All of these can lead to blindness. And all can be
avoided or lessened with treatment if detected
early. Here are some startling statistics:
diabetes are four times more likely to become
blind than people without diabetes.
retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in
of people who are legally blind lost their sight
because of diabetes.
most common eye disease for people with diabetes, is
caused by damage to the blood vessels of the retina.
In some cases, these vessels may swell and leak
fluid. As it worsens, abnormal new blood vessels may
grow on the retina's surface, causing vision loss or
blindness. Unfortunately, retinopathy is very
common, especially for people who have had diabetes
for many years
another major cause of vision loss. If you have
diabetes, you are twice as likely to get a cataract,
which is the clouding of the lens of the eye. People
with diabetes develop cataracts at an earlier age
than people who do not have diabetes. Approximately
7% of people with diabetes develop cataracts.
Cataracts can often be treated surgically, by
replacing the eye lens with an artificial lens. It
is very important to have an annual eye test so
cataracts can be detected before they become severe.
Glaucoma Diabetes also increases the risk of
glaucoma, which is an increase in fluid pressure
inside the eye that damages the optic nerve and can
lead to vision loss. 22% of people with diabetes
have glaucoma, and it is more common in people with
type 2 diabetes. Glaucoma can be treated with
medications to reduce the fluid pressure in the eye.
Laser or other types of surgery may also be
effective. An annual eye test is critical in order
to detect and treat glaucoma at an early stage.
for Eye Disease
groups are at an even higher risk of getting
These groups are
at an increased risk of getting cataracts:
age 60 with diabetes
have had diabetes for many years
have poor diabetes control
This group is at
an increased risk of getting glaucoma:
Risk of Eye Disease
You can greatly
reduce your risk of diabetic eye disease by doing
Control. As average blood sugar levels rise, so does
the risk of retinopathy. The tighter your blood
sugar control, the slower the onset and progression
of retinopathy. A 10-year study called the Diabetes
Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) showed that
those who practiced tighter control experienced 76%
less eye damage than those who practiced standard
control. Practicing tight control can also decrease
your chances of getting cataracts.
Reduce Your Blood
Pressure. High blood pressure increases the risk of
severe retinopathy, so if you reduce your blood
pressure, you will decrease your risk of
Get An Annual Dilated Eye Test. People with diabetic
eye disease often have no symptoms or pain until the
disease becomes advanced. Your eye doctor can detect
retinopathy before you have any vision impairment.
The earlier retinopathy is diagnosed, the sooner you
can start practicing tight control and receiving
laser therapy to decrease the amount of eye damage
your retinopathy will cause. It is important that
the eye test involves dilation so the doctor can
examine the blood vessels in the back of the eye
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