One of the main reasons diabetes is such a terrible disease is because it causes so many medical complications. It is possible to live a full and happy life as a diabetic, but you must be vigilant in managing your condition. One of the most common problems associated with diabetes is Diabetic Retinopathy. It occurs when the primary disease, diabetes, causes vision problems by damaging the retina. In some cases, Diabetic Retinopathy is so serious a person goes completely blind.
Diabetic Retinopathy is a progressive disease that worsens as time passes. It begins with a weakening of the blood vessels in the eyes, causing blood and other liquid to leak into the eye. If blood sugar levels remain elevated, this leakage will eventually lead to other problems. New, but weakened blood vessels grow on the retina and break open, causing blood to leak into the retina.
This bleeding creates scar tissue, which can lead to retinal detachment. Unfortunately, it is not until this latter stage that people realize there is a problem, but by then it is too late to treat if things progress to the point of retinal detachment.
In addition to the problems listed above, retinopathy can also cause swelling in the eyes macula, putting an even greater strain on vision. This is typically the issue that causes blindness in diabetics.
Diabetic Retinopathy Symptoms
If you are diabetic and you notice any change at all in your vision, contact your doctor immediately. He or she will likely suggest you schedule a vision exam and might request an overall checkup since the vision changes could indicate other problems in the management of your diabetes. Symptoms that should alert you to a problem include:
Blurred or double vision
Spots in your vision
Shadows or veils in your vision
Pain, pressure, or redness in the eyes
Preventing Vision Problems
Careful management of diabetes can prevent vision problems. If you are diabetic, work with your doctor to create a treatment plan that makes living with your disease easier. Important factors to consider include:
Controlling your blood sugar levels through diet, exercise, insulin, and medication.
Controlling your blood pressure through diet, exercise, and medication. High blood pressure increases your risk for macular edema, as well as other complications associated with diabetes.
Undergoing annual eye exams, even if there is no problem. This ensures developing problems will be noticed early and can hopefully be treated.
Avoiding hazardous activities that can lead to retinal tearing, such as heavy weight lifting and intense contact sports.
Incorporating safe exercises into your routine. Speak with your doctor if you have questions about what exercises are best for you.
Smoking. In addition to the myriad of other health risks smoking causes, it can worsen diabetes and the complications associated with the disease.
Your risk for retinopathy increases when you have diabetes, but it is not a forgone conclusion that problems with your vision will develop. Careful management of your disease will help you lead a full and happy life, even if lifestyle changes and precautions are necessary