This week’s blog on Diabetes Mellitus has been contributed by Dr Igor Kozak, Consultant Ophthalmologist, Specialist in Vitreoretinal Surgery, Medical Retina and Uveitis
Diabetes mellitus is now one of the most common epidemics across continents. While it is a common household term, most people don’t understand what exactly it means to have diabetes. A body with diabetes is unable to properly use the energy from the food ingests, especially carbohydrates, thereby affecting various organs and their functioning.
However, what people know even less about diabetes is that if not treated appropriately, the eyes and visual function can take a severe toll, and diabetes can lead to various vision related diseases.
The initial signs of diabetic retinopathy are small. While modern research is able to detect them, they usually go unnoticed. The retina is the structure at the backside of the eye where the light is processed and the image is transmitted to the brain. Starting as small hemorrhagic spots on the retina, they progress to bigger bleeds, tissue swelling, or retinal contraction. Early control of diabetes can control this.
The macula is responsible for sharp and detailed vision. The swelling due to diabetes can affect the macula, with decreased visual activity as a result. Further, the photoreceptor cells, that are responsible for converting light to signals, can also be damaged. Modern treatment for Macular Edema include injections to the eye or laser.
Traction retinal detachment occurs due to the contraction of the retina. This leads to dark curtains or blind spots in the field of vision, along with bleeding and formation of holes in the retina. This can be taken care of only through surgery and tenuous post-operative care.
Cataract is the clouding of the lens, leading to a decreased quality of vision. Process of cataract is accelerated in diabetics.
As such diabetes represents a threat to human health and vision. It requires constant fight and vigilance as the consequence for its negligence can come at surprisingly high costs. Experts seek solutions for early diagnosis and treatment in fostering collaboration among specialist in various fields including internal medicine, diabetology, endocrinology and others. Early referrals from family medicine and general practitioners are of highest importance. But most of all, patient education and willingness to improve one’s own health should stand out among activities and drives to bring patients for early and regular eye exam.