How Diabetes Influences Your Vision
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Explaining ‘Diabetic Eye Disease’ – The term ‘diabetic eye disease’ is used to describe a series of eye diseases that are negatively influenced by diabetes. These diseases include glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. When most people say “diabetic eye disease”, they are probably referred to diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetes can cause these diseases to develop faster than they would in someone without diabetes. In the case of diabetic retinopathy, only people that have diabetes can develop it. All of these diseases influence vision, though both glaucoma and retinopathy do so in a mechanism that is very different than how cataracts impair your sight.
Diabetic Retinopathy – Of the diseases associated with diabetes, retinopathy is by far the most well known. Diagnosed via a dilated eye exam, retinopathy is a vision-threatening disease that can have serious and irreversible impacts on your eyesight if it is not diagnosed and managed appropriately.
Abnormalities in blood vessels in the retina cause retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy has two classifications broken down into several stages: non-proliferative and proliferative retinopathy.
- Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy – Broken down as mild/moderate/severe, non-proliferative retinopathy is marked by the blockage of blood vessels in the retina. As the blood vessels become blocked, cellular starvation occurs in retinal cells.
- Proliferative diabetic retinopathy – The final and most severe stage of retinopathy, proliferative diabetic retinopathy is marked by the formation of new blood vessel growth. During the earlier stages of retinopathy, the blockage of blood vessels causes the body to release compounds that will promote new blood vessel growth. This sounds like a good thing, but due to the relative weakness of these blood vessels, they wind up dying and leaving behind scar tissue. This scar tissue pulls at the retina, potentially causing a retinal detachment.
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
- Blurry vision
- Areas of vision that are heavily obfuscated, as if looking through droplets of water
- Dark spots in one or both eyes (sign of retinal bleeding)
- Blind spots in your normal field of vision
- Difficulty reading/focusing due to impaired central vision
Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) – Only people that have diabetic retinopathy can develop diabetic macular edema. Fluid that leaks from damaged blood vessels (due to retinopathy) will eventually cause retinal swelling- this is DME.
Symptoms of Diabetic Macular Edema
- Distorted central vision (as if objects are wavy)
- Decrease colour differentiation (colours appear faded and washed out)