Diabetes is a common disorder that can be easily controlled and lived with, but every diabetic must know what diabetes can do to his/her eyes. Diabetics are at a greater risk for eye disorders such as glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. The biggest cause for blindness among diabetics is diabetic retinopathy, owing to which it is best detected in its earliest stages and treated.

About Diabetic Retinopathy

The term “retinopathy” is used to refer to a number of retinal disorders. Before trying to understand retinopathy, patients must understand the retina, a photosensitive tissue comprising special cells such as rods and cones and located at the back of the eye. When rays of light from the perceived object reach the retina, certain chemical reactions occur and a message is sent to the brain via the optic nerve in the form of an electrical impulse. The brain then deciphers the message and the person sees the object. The retina, therefore, has an important role to play in the seeing process, and diabetes can have a terrible effect on it.

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition in which the tiny blood vessels that nurture the retinal nerve cells are damaged; what’s more, these blood vessels tend to proliferate, as a result of which a large number of weak blood vessels grow in the retina, leading to bleeding, rupture, scarring, and leakage of fluid from the retina.

How Diabetes Damages the Eyes

When the blood sugar level in the body fluctuates, as it happens in case of diabetes, the lens is unable to focus the light rays properly, leading to blurred vision. A diabetic who tends to ignore his/her condition and fails to take proper care is really punishing his/her eyes in this manner.

Diabetes, if ignored and not controlled properly, can affect a number of vital organs in the body such as the kidneys, the nerves, and the heart. Some of the common complications a diabetic can develop are cardiac disorders, diabetic neuropathy, impotence, foot disease, and kidney disorders.

Preventing Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy can be controlled only by keeping complete control over one’s blood sugar levels. Patients with Type I Diabetes can reduce their risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by 60 percent by effectively controlling their condition, while patients with Type II Diabetes can reduce the risk by 40 percent.

A huge majority of diabetics develop retinopathy to some degree or the other, owing to which they need to go for eye checkups regularly to ensure that everything is perfectly fine with their retinas. In its initial stages, diabetic retinopathy has absolutely no symptoms; moreover, it can be easily treated if detected in its earliest stages.

If you are suffering from insulin-dependent diabetes, you must go for an eye checkup once immediately after diagnosis, then four years after the diagnosis, and every year after that.

If you have been diagnosed with non insulin dependent diabetes, you should have an eye checkup at diagnosis and then every year. Some health care centres offer free eye tests for diabetics.