Not proudly, but India has earned the title of the "Diabetes Capital of the World", with over 50 million patients suffering from Type-2 Diabetes. It is indeed a condition in which impact is seen on the entire body including the eyes.

Our lifestyle or routine is quite responsible for our general well-being. One of the perils of a sedentary lifestyle is the rise of metabolic diseases like Diabetes. Of course, most of us are aware of this condition now but there is less awareness about its implications on our eyes. Diabetes hampers the blood vessels that supply blood throughout the body and eyes are often very severely affected.

The eye is unique in providing a window to look at these vessels directly, and hence the severity of Diabetes in the body can often be gauged by looking inside the eye. The retina is a part of the eye, which is like the film of a camera, where the light is focused and the image of what we are seeing is formed. The retina is primarily damaged due to Diabetes and these damages are seen as a disease called Diabetic Retinopathy.

Vision loss is a late symptom of Diabetic Retinopathy. Often patients come to us at a later stage, with a blurring of vision. This is often due to apprehension towards going to a doctor; elderly patients dependent on their children, are reluctant to disturb them, or simply because of unawareness of this condition. This can be highly avoided. At these stages, there is often a swelling in the eye due to Diabetes, or bleeding that happens in the eye, or much worse, the retina may detach.

How to prevent the complication of vision loss due to Diabetes?

  • Get a dilated eye examination doneMost important is to get a dilated eye examination done, to look for the severity of Diabetic Retinopathy. Preventive eye check is recommended, even with normal vision. Once vision loss occurs due to Diabetic Retinopathy, often the sugar control has been poor and there has been a long-standing damage to the retina.
  • Cataract is not the only cause of vision lossThe common perception of vision loss in older age is due to cataract, which can be cured with surgery in most cases. However, the retina is a very sensitive part of the eye, and in case of Diabetic Retinopathy, once vision loss occurs, often the aim of treatment is to prevent further vision loss. During the initial stages, the swelling in the eye in most individuals is treated by delivering medication inside the eye by injections. In some cases, a person may need laser treatment and those with more severe complications, may need an eye surgery.
  • Diabetic eye disease or Diabetic Retinopathy can be treated at an early stageAt an early stage, the chances of success of treatment are certainly much higher than advanced Diabetic eye disease. On an average, patients with initial stages of retinal swelling will be able to read up to two more lines of the vision chart following eye injections. However, at an advanced stage, the chances of improvement are very much dependent on the extent of retinal damage and vision at presentation. Treatment may include surgical removal of bleeding inside the eye and removal of traction on the retina. Even after the surgery, the prognosis may remain poor in many cases, with few cases with preserved retinal function having vision improvement.

If you or anyone close to you is suffering from Diabetes, please get a dilated eye examination done before any loss of vision or any other severe symptom occurs. And like most things in life, when it comes to Diabetic Retinopathy or the diabetic eye disease, prevention is much better than cure.