In diabetic retinopathy, the capillaries or small blood vessels in the retina become weak. The way retinopathy advances in type 1 and type 2 diabetes is slightly different but is the most common cause of visual loss in our working population. Approximately two per cent of the diabetic community become blind but due to advances with screening and laser treatment, this figure is likely to reduce.
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- does not usually occur until diabetes has been present for more than five years
- will be obvious in almost everyone who has diabetes for more than twenty years
- is usually evident when type 2 is diagnosed due to the delay in diagnosis of type 2 diabetes
Why does diabetes affect your eyes?
Current research indicates that the excess blood sugar directly damages your eyes, mostly by affecting the lining of blood vessels carrying blood to the retina, which is the light-sensitive layer of tissues at the back of your eyes. The damage to these vessels appears to be directly related to how high your blood sugar is and for how long.
In the early stages of diabetes eye disease, there are no symptoms which is why you need to have a thorough eye examination every twelve months. As eye damage progresses you may notice:
- poor night vision
- vision loss
- blurred vision
- spots or floaters in your vision
- shadows or missing vision areas
Diabetic retinopathy can happen to anyone who has type 1 or type 2 diabetes, and who:
- has poor blood sugar control
- has high blood pressure
- has high cholesterol levels
- who smokes (smoking damages blood vessels and diabetes eye disease is a blood vessel problem; smoking aggravates the problem)
Early detection is your best protection... it is important to have frequent eye examinations. This way, eye disease can be detected before it affects your vision permanently.
Is there an effective treatment available for diabetic retinopathy?
A procedure known as laser photocoagulation can prevent blindness in 90% of patients. This procedure can burn and seal off the damaged blood vessels, which stops them from bleeding. In the early stages of eye disease this procedure can restore your vision within approximately six months. In many cases however, laser surgery only slows down vision loss rather than restoring it. So with treatment your vision will stay the same, without treatment it will get worse.
In type 2 diabetes, eye disease is often diagnosed before the diabetes. In other words many people don't know they have type 2 diabetes until their ophthalmologist notices tiny red dots which are signs of bleeding or "cotton wool spots" on the retina.
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If you have undiagnosed type 2 diabetes, you could have early signs of diabetes eye disease. if you are newly diagnosed with type 2, go to an ophthalmologist for a complete examination and then have a yearly follow-up.
To download a free copy of my E-Book, click here now: Answers to Your Questions... it's based on questions diabetics have asked me over recent months.
Beverleigh Piepers is a registered nurse who would like to help you understand how to live easily and happily with your type 2 diabetes.
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