Diabetes affects the entire body and that includes the eyes. There are several eye conditions diabetes can cause. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common. Diabetic retinopathy is when blood glucose levels cause changes to the blood vessels in the retina, the part of the eye that sends signals to the brain and enables a visual sight.
When the retinal blood vessels don't work properly, it can interfere with the signals they send, leading to vision loss or even blindness. There are different types of diabetic retinopathy, and you may have all at once.
This is the initial stage of retinopathy. Your eye doctor can see that the small capillaries—the smallest of the blood vessels—are showing signs of damage. Background retinopathy may be present in people without diabetes as well. While your doctor can see the beginning damage at this stage, it doesn't typically cause vision problems. This is one reason why regular eye exams are so important.
However, in the diabetic, continued uncontrolled blood glucose levels and high blood pressure will continue to exacerbate the problem. At this stage, the goal is to stabilise the blood sugar as well as your blood pressure. This is ideally done through diet and exercise, but medications may be used as well.
When the blood vessels in your retina become damaged, your body senses this and sends out a growth hormone in a desperate attempt to save the retina. This growth hormone triggers the body to build new blood vessels.
Unfortunately, the human body has not perfected this process and instead of growing new, strong blood vessels, they are usually weak and tend to rupture or leak. The new blood vessels may also grow into the vitreous humour, which is the jelly-like part of the eyeball. These new blood vessels can cause haemorrhaging or a detached retina. Eye doctors may use lasers or injections to prevent the body from growing new blood vessels.
Diabetic Macular Oedema
The macula is in the centre of the retina. The macula helps the retina to focus and provides the ability to see things in finer detail. The macula provides the centre field of vision.
In diabetics with proliferative retinopathy, the blood vessels may leak onto the macula, causing swelling and interfering with your ability to focus on faces or tasks, such as driving and reading. You may see wavy lines. Differentiating colours may be more difficult or the colours may not be as vivid. Your doctor may use lasers or medications to correct the problem.
To learn more about diabetic retinopathy, speak with a medical practitioner.