Diabetes is a very common health ailment in Singapore. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder which affects about 400,000 Singaporeans. There are two forms of Diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is usually genetic and is diagnosed in children and can last a lifetime. Type 2 diabetes occurs usually in people over the age of 40 years old and have poor eating habits. Both forms of diabetes can affect the proper functioning of the eyes.
Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a secondary condition that causes damage to the blood circulatory system of the eye. The retina is the layer inside the eye which receives light signals and transmits them to the brain. Tiny blood vessels supply vital nutrients to the ultra-important retina. There are 2 types of diabetic retinopathy:
- Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy – This is the initial form of DR where the damaged blood vessels of the eye starts to leak blood and other substances into the retinal layer. This causes the retina to swell which in turn causes the vision to blur. But usually, it’s the peripheral vision that is affected. Therefore, there may not be any noticeable symptoms.
- Proliferative diabetic retinopathy – This is the advanced form of DR where there is serious lack of oxygen supply to the retina. This causes new but poorly formed blood vessels to grow out of the existing blood vessels. Since these blood vessels are poorly formed, their walls are easily breached and fluid and blood is leaked at an even faster rate. Sometimes these blood vessels also grow into the vitreous, the gel like substance in the eye which keeps the eye in shape and prevents the retina from collapsing. In serious cases of DR, the new blood vessels can damage the retina and cause the vitreous to shrink which can cause major issues like retinal detachment. Glaucoma is also a vision threatening by-product of DR.
Should I be worried?
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, then it’s a definite must to go for regular eye examinations to examine the posterior segment of the eye. Since the initial stages of DR are asymptomatic, regular eye examinations are the only way DR can be identified at its earliest stages. In the meantime, break a sweat by exercising regularly. Get proper nutritional advice and stick to a healthy meal plan. Quit smoking if you still have not. Diabetes can be controlled with a little change in lifestyle.
Stay healthy and stay happy!