New research data out of New Zealand suggests that many diabetics do not understand the sight risks, like retinopathy, associated with the blood disease.
The studies, conducted by Specsavers and Diabetes New Zealand, found that 83 percent of respondents (all with diabetes) have experienced one or more vision-related symptoms that could indicate diabetic retinopathy. The degenerative eye condition can lead to irreversible vision loss if left untreated.
Of that massive majority, a staggering 38 percent of respondents reported not even knowing that retinopathy could steal their eye sight. More than half (55 percent) said they had at some point experienced spots or dark strings floating in their vision (often known as floaters); roughly the same amount had experienced blurred vision; 26 percent reported signs of fluctuating vision; and 10 percent reported outright vision loss.
And yet, despite the widespread damage caused to eyesight, nearly half of the respondents did not even know that such a condition existed.
“Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that affects the eyes. It is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye,” said New Zealand optometrist Ian Russell. “While symptoms or changes to vision may be harmless, they can also indicate an underlying issue and are not to be taken lightly.”
How does diabetes cause retinopathy?
Russell said the condition is best explained with a plumbing metaphor.
“There’s a good analogy that a friend of mine uses, where he talks about it like the sugar corroding the pipes. So when the blood vessels aren’t as intact as they should be, the blood leaks out of them,” he said. “If the blood vessel damage occurs in the central part of the vision, it looks like a blob or a blur to the person affected.”
Luckily, if retinopathy is caught early enough, patients do have treatment options available.
“If eye tests pick up leaking, hemorrhaging, or damage, there are usually two treatments available,” Russell explained. “One is to inject medicine into the eye … which stops further damage. But advanced damage can cause new blood vessels to grow around the eye, and those new blood vessels will cause further damage. So another treatment is to laser the back of the eye to stop new blood vessels from growing.”
Many hospitals or medical professionals will only check and attempt to treat diabetes, though. If you have diabetes, it is your responsibility to seek out regular eye testing, especially if you’re experiencing sight issues or dark spots in everyday life.
“It is recommended that everyone gets their eyes tested every two years, whether you have diabetes or not,” Russell asserted. An advanced OCT 3D eye scan will aid in the detection of eye conditions earlier.”
Regular eye tests can also help diagnose and prevent other vision issues like glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts.