Save your vision: Control diabetes and go for regular eye checkups

A quarter of the world’s blind population is estimated to be in India, about 12 to 15 million. This is bound to increase as diabetes is one of the leading causes for loss of vision in India. With an estimated 51 million people currently living with Diabetes, India leads the world in the prevalence of diabetes, and this is predicted to go worse by the year 2030, says Dr Ajay Aggarwal, Senior Consultant, Department of Endocrinology, Fortis Hospital, New Delhi

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This is true that people with diabetes do have a higher risk of blindness than people without diabetes, but it is equally true most people with diabetes can keep these problems to minor. It is very important to realize that good blood sugar control; regular and timely check-up, proper testing and eye care can often save vision by up to 90 per cent.

Effect on diabetes on eyesight: Uncontrolled Diabetes can affect the eyes and vision in a number of ways. The most significant complication that can cause blindness in people with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes may also cause frequent vision fluctuations, cataract, glaucoma, decreased vision due to involvement of optic nerve, temporary paralysis of the muscles of eyes and thus double vision.

Diabetic Retinopathy: Diabetic retinopathy is a term used for abnormalities of the small blood vessels of the retina caused by uncontrolled diabetes. Early form of diabetic retinopathy may not lead to any decrease in vision or symptom. If the care is not taken, then eventually the blood vessels close off. The other risk factors for diabetic retinopathy are high blood pressure, anemia, kidney diseases and pregnancy.

Dr Ajay Aggarwal, Senior Consultant, Department of Endocrinology, Fortis Hospital, New Delhi
Dr Ajay Aggarwal, Senior Consultant, Department of Endocrinology, Fortis Hospital, New Delhi

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy: Retina can be badly damaged before any noticeable change in vision; therefore it is essential to have periodic evaluation of eye by an ophthalmologist. Pupils need to be dilated with eye drops, so that ophthalmologist may have a good look at the back of eye. When eye checkup is done annually, doctor is able to catch retinopathy in the early stages.  Women with diabetes who are pregnant should have a comprehensive eye examination in the first trimester and close follow-up throughout pregnancy.

Preventive measures for diabetic retinopathy:

  • High blood glucose levels are responsible for all forms of diabetic eye disease. Maintain blood sugar level within normal range. HbA1C level should be tested at least twice a year and be aimed at less than 7 per cent.
  • Work with your physician regarding medicines, meal planning, physical activity, and blood glucose monitoring for optimal blood sugar control.
  • Don’t miss appointments with doctor. When a person is diagnosed with diabetes, it becomes imperative that one has annual vision tests and eye fundus examination.
  • It is better to abstain from alcohol and stop smoking

Good control of Diabetes, in addition to minimising the risk of eye complications, goes a long way toward preventing all diabetes complications and ensuring a healthy life for people with Diabetes.

A healthy diet, regular physical activity, weight loss, smoking cessation; limited alcohol consumption and proper medication all are beneficial. Modern insulin delivery device like Novo Pen, thin needles and home blood glucose delivery devices had made diabetes management really convenient. Control diabetes; get your eyes checked regularly and save your vision.

The author is a Senior Consultant, Department of Endocrinology, Fortis Hospital, New Delhi