Type 2 diabetes is a damn serious condition, yet it is not uncommon to encounter people who have it which act as if it is of no true concern to them. At least in the moment that is. It is astounding to see how for some, the prospect of a high carb meal far outweighs their overall concern for the very real harm that increase of blood sugar is doing with in their body. I have personally known diabetics that will monitor their blood sugar and then proceed to consume a carbohydrate rich meal, or go out for a night of drinking. This is ignorance in the least, and stupidity at the worst. Sadly, most of the people I have known who do not take their diabetes seriously, are the most surprised when they begin losing their toes, feet and or vision. This is a real and common issue that I do not always have much sympathy for. Afterall, if you know the risks of continuing an unhealthy diet, yet proceed to do so anyhow, it is your fault when you begin losing body parts and vision. You have to take personal responsibility for your health and wellbeing as no one else is going to do it for you, and that includes your doctor. Your doctor may give you medications, but it is up to you to actually do what is right for yourself.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
I can live without a toe. I could survive just fine with a modern style leg or foot prosthetic. But, I can not imagine living the rest of my life blind, can you?
Diabetic Retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that affects your eyes. It’s caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina).
In the beginning stages, diabetic retinopathy may not cause you to experience any symptoms or you may only experience mild vision problems. Eventually, it can lead to your blindness. Diabetic Retinopathy can develop in anyone who has type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to develop this eye complication. When you continue to eat a high carb diet as a diabetic, you really need to ask yourself if what you are about to consume is actually worth your vision tomorrow. If a high carb snack is worth blindness to you, then knock yourself out I guess, just do not whine about your condition when it actually has a negative impact on your life. You did it to yourself!
Diabetic Retinopathy is caused over a period of time when too much sugar in your blood leads to the blockage of the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina, thereby shutting off the blood supply to them. As a result, your eyes attempt to grow new blood vessels. The problem is, these new blood vessels don’t develop properly and can easily leak.
Think about this the next time you are snarfing down an extra large value meal with a milkshake or soda at your local fast food joint.
Can you imagine losing the ability to look into the eyes of your loved ones?
Would you miss this emotional connection with your children or grandchildren?
There are two types of diabetic retinopathy:
- Early diabetic retinopathy. In this more common form — called nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) — new blood vessels aren’t growing (proliferating).When you have NPDR, the walls of the blood vessels in your retina weaken. Tiny bulges (microaneurysms) protrude from the vessel walls of the smaller vessels, sometimes leaking fluid and blood into the retina. Larger retinal vessels can begin to dilate and become irregular in diameter, as well. NPDR can progress from mild to severe, as more blood vessels become blocked.Nerve fibers in the retina may begin to swell. Sometimes the central part of the retina (macula) begins to swell (macular edema), a condition that requires treatment.
- Advanced diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy can progress to this more severe type, known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy. In this type, damaged blood vessels close off, causing the growth of new, abnormal blood vessels in the retina, and can leak into the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the center of your eye (vitreous).Eventually, scar tissue stimulated by the growth of new blood vessels may cause the retina to detach from the back of your eye. If the new blood vessels interfere with the normal flow of fluid out of the eye, pressure may build up in the eyeball. This can damage the nerve that carries images from your eye to your brain (optic nerve), resulting in glaucoma. (1)
Poor control of blood sugar and high blood pressure can increase your risk of developing Diabetic Retinopathy. Anyone who has diabetes can develop this condition and the longer you have diabetes, the greater your risk of developing it becomes.
Complications of Diabetic Retinopathy can lead to serious vision problems:
- Vitreous hemorrhage. The new blood vessels may bleed into the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the center of your eye. If the amount of bleeding is small, you might see only a few dark spots (floaters). In more-severe cases, blood can fill the vitreous cavity and completely block your vision.Vitreous hemorrhage by itself usually doesn’t cause permanent vision loss. The blood often clears from the eye within a few weeks or months. Unless your retina is damaged, your vision may return to its previous clarity.
- Retinal detachment. The abnormal blood vessels associated with diabetic retinopathy stimulate the growth of scar tissue, which can pull the retina away from the back of the eye. This may cause spots floating in your vision, flashes of light or severe vision loss.
- Glaucoma. New blood vessels may grow in the front part of your eye and interfere with the normal flow of fluid out of the eye, causing pressure in the eye to build up (glaucoma). This pressure can damage the nerve that carries images from your eye to your brain (optic nerve).
- Blindness. Eventually, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma or both can lead to complete vision loss. (1)
Diabetes doesn’t necessarily have to lead to a loss of your vision. By making the choice to take an active role in your diabetes management, you can go a long way towards the prevention of complications. Regular eye exams, good control of your blood sugar and blood pressure, and early intervention for vision problems can help prevent severe vision loss. Once you get this terrible complication from diabetes, you are not going to get over it, there is no cure. Surgery often slows or stops the progression of diabetic retinopathy, but that is a best case scenario as it’s not a cure.
Manage your diabetes.
Make healthy eating habits and physical activity part of your lifestyle! Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Take oral diabetes medications or insulin as directed.
Monitor your blood sugar level.
You may need to check and record your blood sugar level several times a day — more-frequent measurements may be required if you’re ill or under stress. Ask your doctor how often you need to test your blood sugar. But do not be a fool and use a good reading as justification to eat or drink those high carb foods you know that you should avoid!
Ask your doctor about a glycosylated hemoglobin test.
The glycosylated hemoglobin test, or hemoglobin A1C test, reflects your average blood sugar level for the two- to three-month period before the test. For most people, the A1C goal is to be under 7 percent.
Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control.
Eating healthy foods, exercising regularly and losing excess weight can help. Sometimes medication is needed too, but not always.
If you smoke or use other types of tobacco, ask your doctor to help you quit.
Smoking increases your risk of various diabetes complications, including Diabetic Retinopathy.
Pay attention to vision changes.
Contact your eye doctor right away if you experience sudden vision changes or your vision becomes blurry, spotty or hazy.