Diabetes and the Eyes

Diabetes can cause complications in almost any system of a person’s body, including his ocular system. The eyes are actually among the most commonly affected systems of the body, together with the nervous system, circulatory system, and the kidneys. In fact, according to studies, one of the leading causes of blindness is diabetes. Diabetes, whether Type I or Type II, can cause different optical complications, including retinopathy, vitreous hemorrhage, cataract, glaucoma and changes in refraction.

If a person with diabetes observes certain visual symptoms, he should not dismiss them for they are signs of possible optical complications. Common eye symptoms which are related to diabetes are changes in refraction, variable vision or focus, blurred vision, light sensitivity, faulty color vision, and blindness. When one observes these symptoms, he should consult his doctor immediately, for in their early stages, they can still be corrected by standard prescription lenses, medication, or surgery. As in all other medical complications, early detection and diagnosis is the key to treatment or prevention.

Eye Problems Associated with Diabetes

Diabetic Retinopathy is one of the common eye complications related to diabetes. This is characterized by leakage of blood from vessels in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy is manifested by symptoms such as blurred vision and reduced sensitivity to color. This complication occurs in various stages, and most severe stage may require surgery, especially when the complication has already caused the detachment of the retina. This stage of the complication can, at its worst, cause severe vision loss or even blindness.

Cataract is another common eye complication caused by diabetes. This complication causes hazy vision and increased sensitivity to glare or light. Cataract occurs when there is a clouding of the transparent lens of the eye. This complication is, however, not as alarming as retinopathy, since cataracts can usually be surgically removed to cause improved vision.

Another complication is secondary glaucoma, which is the blocking of the outflow of fluid from the eye caused by the formation of a new network of new vessels in the eyes, which network goes directly to the iris. This results on increased pressure of the fluids inside the eye, which in turn causes loss of full visual field.

Lastly, changes in refraction can occur due to high blood glucose levels. Changes in refraction means there is a variation in the accurate focus of light rays on the retina. Such changes are caused by the swelling of the lens of the eye, which results in near-sightedness.

There are other eye complications resulting from diabetes which might result in vision impairment and loss; this is why every little change in vision of one who has diabetes should be made known to the doctor immediately, so as to prevent any further damage.

Proper Eye Management

Diabetics should be aware that their disease causes complications in other bodily systems, particularly the optical system. Thus, he should always undergo, at constant intervals, optical examinations such as refraction. These examinations should be conducted only by an ophthalmologist. They should also ask from their ophthalmologist a periodical fluorescein angiography test, which is designed to detect early signs of retinopathy which cannot be detected under a standard vision examination.

Where a diabetic already experiences low vision such that he can no longer perform his usual activities due to the impairment of his vision, he can seek special types of magnifying and vision-enhancing devices which are especially designed for people with diabetes. There are also particular optical devices which are designed for a only a specific purpose or task requirements. These devices may include magnifying spectacles, hand magnifiers, and focusable monocular telescopes. Aside from these optical devices, the diabetic can also utilize non-optical devices such as proper lighting to help him see better.

For people with diabetes who already have advanced vision impairment, it might already be necessary to go through vision rehabilitation teaching. Under this program, a diabetic can learn special skills which are necessary for his independence, such as training in kitchen safety, getting around places and personal management.

Other management techniques will apply not only for those who already experience visual impairment, but for everyone who has diabetes. These include constant measurement of blood glucose, exercise, proper diet, and stress control.

Blood glucose should be regularly measured and monitored several times a day because treatment and complications can be affected by the changes in the level of one’s blood glucose. Another management tool is regular and moderate exercise, since it improves blood glucose control. However, one should not over exert himself when exercising; the type of exercise should be designed to fit into the person’s health and eye condition. Diabetics should be aware that sometimes, strenuous exercise can cause adverse effects, such as an increase in the level of blood glucose. Therefore, every exercise program the patient wants to follow must first be consulted with, and approved by, a doctor.

Diet is one of the most important tools in diabetes management. A dietician should be consulted as regards the foods which can be eaten by a diabetic and which are forbidden.

Lastly, persons with diabetes should develop effective stress-reduction and relaxation techniques because stress adversely affects the condition of diabetics. These stress management techniques include meditation, listening to music and relaxation.