Last week we discussed how many people have diabetes worldwide. Can you tell me what that number was without cheating? Okay, fine I’ll tell you…. over 400 million people worldwide! With many more undiagnosed. This week we are talking about eye care in honor of Healthy Vision Month. Wahoo, tackling a health issue one week at a time!
Avoiding the Mundane
Eyes are one of the most precious parts of our human body. They give us access to one of our five senses, sight. There is an abundance of beautiful and wonderful sights, places, people, culture, and more to see in our world and without our vision we wouldn’t be able to see them. There is a quote by W.H. Auden,
“The ear tends to be lazy, crave the familiar and is shocked by the unexpected; the eye, on the other hand, tends to be impatient, craves the novel and is bored by repetition.”
It is our duty to our eyes to go out into the world and live extraordinary lives. We need to stop waiting for weekends (I know, I know sleeping in and cozy Saturday mornings are amazing, but so is the sunset on a Wednesday evening). Break out of your mundane routine and give your eyes novel sights to see. It could be the same thing that you do everyday for work, but maybe your perspective has changed. We tend to take this magnificent gift of vision for granted. Not all are as lucky to have it or to keep it.
There is a plethora of eye problems that can happen ranging from cataracts, glaucoma, age degeneration, keratoconus, eyelid twitching, color blindness, blindness, and more. One eye disease that is common with diabetics is Diabetic Retinopathy (DR). DR is caused by damage to blood vessels on the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, which is known as the retina. The longer a person is diabetic and the less controlled their blood sugars are, then the more likely they are to get Diabetic Retinopathy. The tricky thing with DR is that at first there may be only mild symptoms of blurred vision or no symptoms at all.
There are two types of Diabetic Retinopathy (this is where things get a little complicated). The first is known as Early Diabetic Retinopathy, which is called nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR). In this type, the blood vessels weaken and can become an irregular shape. Likewise, they can also begin to leak fluid and blood into the retina. As it progresses, it turns into Advanced Diabetic Retinopathy.
Which is known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR). In this type, the blood vessels close off, which causes the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the retina. These blood vessels can leak into the clear center of your eye (vitreous).
This might seem like a lot to process (probably because it is) but if we stay educated we can prevent things from getting worse. If you don’t have diabetes and you’re thinking “okay, enough about this,” click the links in the beginning of the article to read about all the eye complications that anyone can get…. trust me you’ll be occupied for a while.
But for now, back to the topic of the week—DR!
Four of the main complications of diabetic retinopathy include: vitreous hemorrhage, retinal detachment, glaucoma, and blindness.
The new blood vessels that formed may bleed into the clear center of your eye. The amount of bleeding depends on how affected your vision will be. If the amount is small, then you’ll just have floaters, which are small dark spots. However, if the blood amount is much more, then it has the chance to completely fill the vitreous cavity and block your vision. Typically, the blood will clear from your eye within a few weeks or months.
The abnormal blood cells that we talked about earlier stimulate the growth of scar tissue, which can pull the retina away from the back wall of your eye. This could either cause more floaters, flashes of light, or severe vision loss.
The new blood cells may grow in the front part of your eye, which would interfere with the normal liquid that flows of your eyes. This causes pressure to build up in your eye, which is known as glaucoma. The pressure can damage the optic nerve, which is the nerve that carries images from your eyes to your brain. Therefore, if the nerve is damaged, then permanent vision loss is a possibility.
This one seems self-explanatory, but if diabetic retinopathy isn’t treated or if it continues for a longer period of time it can lead to complete vision loss. This is what we want to avoid. But, how can we do that? Keep reading (or skimming, whichever one you’re doing! I mean you’re here so that counts for something) to learn about some different prevention tips!
Don’t stress out too much, eye health is very important, but there are preventative steps that you can take. The first one is continuing to schedule yearly eye appointments to ensure that they are healthy. (Pssstt, if you don’t do yearly appointments you better start now!) Another important tip is to wear protective eye wear. When you are outside wear sunglasses and don’t look directly at the sun. Additionally, get yourself a pair of blue light blocking glasses (or pay extra to get that feature added into your prescription glasses) to block the light from your computer, phone, and any other digital media. With how connected our world is today, it is important to protect your eyes when using technology so often. As for all health-related problems, eat healthy and exercise weekly to keep your body at its best!
Now, if you’re diabetic you’ll have a few more extra preventative steps to take. Make sure to manage your diabetes well. You will need to check your blood sugar levels more often to ensure that they are in the correct range. If you smoke or consume any tobacco products, then meet up with your doctor to set up a plan to say goodbye to them (as should anyone because we all know they aren’t healthy for us). Those little guys will not help you here! Another important step for diabetics is to get the glycosylated hemoglobin test. This test reflects your average blood sugar level for the 2-3 months prior to the test. Ideally, it should be under 7%.
See the World
With all of the eye health issues that can happen to us, it is important that we keep up with preventative measures. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see all the beauty that the world has to offer (spoiler: IT’S A LOT!)
Linked below are some resources that I used, please click away if you want to learn more. As always reach out on social media, the comments, or email to get in touch if you have any questions or concerns about your eye health. Let’s keep our eyes healthy all year, not just in May!
Division of Diabetes Translation. (n.d.). Diabetic Retinopathy. Retrieved May 16, 2019, [Click Here to Read]
Staff, M. C. (2018, May 30). Diabetic retinopathy. Retrieved May 16, 2019, [Click Here to Read]
Your Eye Concerns. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2019, [Click Here to Read]