Diabetes is a disease where the amount of sugar in the blood is elevated. While there are different types of diabetes, all cause high blood sugar and damage body tissues over time. As diabetes is a disease of the blood, its effects are spread throughout the entire body. However, diabetes particularly affects areas of the body where there are small blood vessels, such as fingers & toes, kidneys, and eyes.
The retina is a cellular layer in the back of the eye responsible for sensing light. It is full of small blood vessels necessary for supplying nutrients to retinal cells. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar levels damage small retinal vessels, causing retinal bleeding, swelling, and other problems. Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of vision loss in the US.
While diabetes can lead to vision loss and blindness, diabetics who control their blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and body weight have lower risk of complications. A balanced diet, exercise, and proper medication are all important for all diabetics to enjoy a healthy lifestyle and protect themselves from diabetic retinopathy. In order to catch and treat diabetic retinopathy in its early stages, yearly eye exams are extremely important for all diabetics to protect and preserve their vision. Diabetics who properly manage their disease and regularly visit their doctors can enjoy excellent vision and ocular health.