BENGALURU: Diabetes Mellitus currently affects more than 62 million Indians, which is roughly 7.2 per cent 0f the adult population. One of the most common questions we ask a patient in any outpatient department is if they have diabetes. This is because it can affect various parts of the body, including the eyes. The duration of diabetes and the level of control of blood sugars play an important role in determining the extent of damage it can have on the eye. Often, patients are surprised to hear that this is the reason for their eye ailments. This is due to lack of awareness that diabetes can even lead to vision loss.
What are the problems caused by diabetes in the eye?
It can be something as simple as frequent change in refractive error or recurrent painful swelling in the eyelids (stye), to serious problems affecting vision such as cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of irreversible blindness. If not detected early, it can lead to loss of vision. In the initial stages, it goes unnoticed as it may not cause significant visual problems but as the disease progresses, it can become sight threatening. This is why it is important for all diabetics to have yearly retinal check-ups for early detection of this condition.
If you are diabetic, it is primarily important to keep your blood sugars under controlwith necessary medication and diet. Frequent measurement of blood sugars as well as Hba1C level is advised. Associated conditions such as hypertension and high cholesterol should be kept under control as these can aggravate the diabetic effects on the eye or by themselves affect the eye. Smoking should be avoided, and exercise is encouraged.(The writer is consultant, Rajan Eye Care Hospital, Chennai)
Treatment of diabetic retinopathy varies depending on the condition. Milder stages of the disease only require stricter control of blood sugar levels. Severe stages will need laser, injections or even surgery. The
management and follow-up examinations vary from person to person. Annual eye and retina evaluation should be done for every person diagnosed with diabetes. Patients should consult an ophthalmologist irrespective of their symptoms. Early detection and management of diabetic eye disease or retinopathy can help prevent irreversible loss of vision.