We’ve often heard about diabetes as a life-long disease, and how one must be extremely careful about it.
There are different types of diabetes but they usually have the same effect on the body, owing to the high blood sugar levels and the issues that arise from it. It is essential to identify the type of diabetes and treat it accordingly. If it is not treated, it can lead to a multitude of serious conditions, such as eye diseases, foot diseases, and even kidney diseases. Type 2 diabetes mellitus is one of the most prevalent forms of diabetes. This chronic ailment can have severe impact on your body if left unchecked.
Get to know Type 2 Diabetes
Glucose is one of our body’s cells’ chief sources of energy. But we can get this energy only when glucose leaves the bloodstream and enters the cells. Our pancreas produces insulin, a hormone, which signals the cells to take in the glucose. The more glucose there is in your blood, the more insulin our pancreas produces.
Sometimes, our body’s cells develop resistance to insulin, leading to high amounts of glucose in the blood. This causes the pancreas to keep producing insulin to combat the rising sugar levels. Gradually, the insulin resistance gets severe; the pancreas gets exhausted and cannot keep up with the sugar levels unable to produce enough insulin. This is known as type 2 diabetes when the body’s cells stop responding to the primary function of insulin.
Although formerly referred to as adult-onset diabetes, because of unhealthier lifestyles today, type 2 diabetes is increasingly diagnosed even in children and teens. Research shows that adults who had a low birth weight or who were thin at birth with a low ponderal index (birth weight/length) tend to be insulin resistant and are at great risk of developing Type 2 diabetes mellitus. Type 2 diabetes is more common than type 1 diabetes. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes in India is 7.8% and rising, and some areas experience prevalence rates as high as 18%.
The Impact of Type 2 Diabetes on Eye-Health
People with diabetes can be affected by eye problems known as diabetic eye diseases. High glucose levels impact eye-health in different ways, depending on the duration and severity of the disease.
Temporary high levels of blood sugar do not cause loss of vision, but it can create a blurry vision for a few days/weeks. This can also occur due to changes in medication. The high glucose can change fluid levels or cause the tissues in the eyes to swell, thus resulting in blurry vision. This condition is temporary, and vision is restored to normal when glucose levels also normalize.
In the long term, however, high levels of glucose can damage the tiny blood vessels in the back of the eyes. Very often, this damage to the blood vessels begins during the prediabetes, thus escaping diagnosis. The damaged blood vessels might cause more complications like fluid leakage and swelling. They might bleed into the eye, scarring it or building up pressure inside the eye. Sometimes, high glucose levels might also cause the growth of new but weakened blood vessels. Long-term diabetes can result in a reduced vision leading to blindness.
Some of the eye-health related conditions due to diabetes are diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic macular edema. Let’s understand in detail how these diabetic eye diseases occur.
The retina, which is at the back of each eye, is an inner lining that turns light into signals for the brain to decode. We can see the world because of the retina. When blood vessels get damaged, they harm the retina causing diabetic retinopathy.
- In its early stages, the damaged blood vessels can weaken, bulge or leak into the retina. This condition is non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
- In the latter stages, some blood vessels close and new ones grow. These new blood vessels proliferate on the retina leading to severe issues. This condition is proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
In India, sight-threatening Diabetic Retinopathy (STDR) affects 5%–7% of people with diabetes, i.e., 3–4.5 million.
With age, the lenses in the eyes gradually begin deteriorating and become cloudy, which affects vision. This condition is known as a cataract. Diabetics develop cataracts at an earlier age due to deposits of glucose that build up in the lenses in the eyes.
Glaucoma is a condition that affects the optic nerve. The optic nerves are in charge of transmitting impulses from the retina to the brain. Diabetics are more prone to developing glaucoma, which can cause permanent loss of vision and blindness.
Diabetic Macular Edema:
The macula is a part of the retina, which helps us to read, drive and recognize faces. Swelling in the macula due to diabetes is called diabetic macular edema, which can damage this part of the eye leading to a partial loss of vision or blindness.
Preventing Diabetic Eye Diseases
Type 2 diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be reversed and kept under control to prevent further complications like eye diseases. Paying attention to your vitals, maintaining a good diet, exercising regularly and taking any required medicines can go a long way in helping with this.
Manage Your Diabetes ABCs:
Keep a check on your A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol. Haemoglobin A1C is a blood test. High hemoglobin A1C levels indicate high glucose levels for an extended period. It’s also a good habit to regularly check your blood pressure and cholesterol. High blood pressure increases the risk of developing diabetic eye disease.
Maintain a Good Diet:
It is important to take continuous care of your body, and that involves a proper diet for good health and nutrition. Your ideal diet should contain more fruits, vegetables, nuts, fiber, and high-quality protein. Avoid processed and packaged foods.
Maintain your ideal body weight by exercising regularly. Going for a brisk walk of about 3 kilometers in 30 minutes at least five times a week is a good way to reduce your insulin resistance, even if it doesn’t result in weight loss. Try to lower your body weight and waist circumference through other physical activity as well. You can maintain an exercise log or a pedometer to track your workouts/walks/activity.
Medication (If Necessary):
Sometimes, you might develop diabetes despite a healthy diet and regular exercise. In such a situation, it is important to check yourself for prediabetes and take medication according to your doctor’s prescription.
While diabetic eye diseases are a worrying factor that comes with type 2 diabetes, keeping the above mentioned points in mind can help you a long way in preventing it.
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