DOES DIABETES AFFECT THE RETINA?

Dr. Jim Martin 11/13/2015

retina.pngDiabetes is a destructive disease, especially when it goes undiagnosed, untreated, or unmanaged. Vision loss and blindness can happen if a diabetic does not take action to keep glucose levels under control. Understanding how diabetes affects the retina is critical for diabetics.

The Damage That Diabetes Does

After developing diabetes, the body loses its ability to regulate glucose levels in the blood stream. Normally, insulin helps with glucose regulation. With Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas begins to produce less and less insulin. With Type 2 insulin, the body still retains its ability to produce insulin. However, for reasons still under study, insulin becomes less and less effective in regulating glucose levels.

The ultimate result of both types of diabetes is higher and higher glucose levels. High glucose levels in the bloodstream cause damage to the walls of blood vessels, especially tiny capillaries. As the blood vessel walls sustain damage, they begin to thin and become porous. Eventually, they can break completely. This is what causes most of the damage to the retina.

The Effect Of Diabetes On The Retina

As you look out on the world, light enters your eyes through the pupil. It hits the back of your eye at the retina. The retina is a layer of cells that are sensitive to light. The light triggers nerve impulses, which travel to the brain via the optic nerve. The brain translates those nerve signals into what we perceive as vision.

The retina is a very delicate area requiring a healthy flow of blood provided by capillaries. If those capillaries sustain damage, the retina can also sustain damage.

Nonproliferative retinopathy happens when those delicate capillaries start losing their structure and form pouches. This can cause vision to become blurry.

Macular edema occurs as the capillaries lose their ability to regulate what passes through their walls. Fluid can start to accumulate behind the macula, the part of the retina responsible for focus. As the fluid accumulates, it can hinder the ability of the eye to focus.

Proliferative retinopathy happens when damaged capillaries completely collapse, stopping blood flow. Lack of blood flow triggers the body to start growing new blood vessels to feed the retina. These vessels are very weak and tend to leak blood. They can also cause scar tissue. This can cause vision loss and blindness.

Supplements To Foster Eye Health

All of these conditions fall under the category of diabetic retinopathy. The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely he or she is to develop one or more of these conditions. That is why it is important to manage blood glucose levels and protect the eyes. Routine dilated eye exams are also important. Call Broome Optical to set an appointment today.

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