Diabetes is a condition characterized by an elevated level of blood glucose due to the insufficient production of the Insulin by the Beta cells of the pancreas. The high blood glucose level can also be an outcome of the inability of the body cells to utilize or respond to the insulin produced - a condition termed as Insulin Resistance.
Today, Diabetes has become a raging problem affecting almost every second individual, irrespective of their age, sex or ethnicity. What is even worse is the fact that the metabolic disorder affects a host of the vital body organs including the eyes. In many diabetic patients (diabetes left unmanaged and uncontrolled for long), the high blood sugar or Hyperglycemia can give rise to many eye complications such as:
Thus, it becomes essential to carry out the preventive measure to deal with diabetes-related eye problems and associated complications.
Protecting the eyes from Diabetes
Redness, itchiness and watery eyes are common symptoms of eye allergies. Pollen, mold, dust and pet dander are common allergens that trigger such allergies. Other triggers include adverse reactions to cosmetics and eye medication such as eye drops. Being allergic to certain food items rarely causes eye conditions such as itchiness or excessive tearing. When the surface of the eye is exposed to allergens, it releases histamines. This causes itchiness and makes the eye red and watery.
However, sometimes these can also be symptoms of a larger problem. Itchiness in the eyes and excessive tearing can also be a symptom of conjunctivitis or caused by eye disorders like dry eyes and blepharitis. Ironically,dry eyes is the most notorious factor amongst the above. Watery eyes could also be caused by clogged tear ducts or eyelids that turn inwards or outwards.
If your eye feels itchy or is persistently watery, you must consult an eye doctor. To correctly diagnose the condition and recognize the symptoms triggering it, he will conduct a thorough eye exam and discuss your medical history and lifestyle. If the condition is triggered by an allergy you might also require blood tests for allergies. This will decide your course of treatment. A few tips that could help are:
The best way to keep your eyes healthy is to limit their exposure to factors that could irritate it. Avoid going outdoors during the pollen season especially if it is windy. Wearing wraparound sunglasses can also help create a barrier between your eyes and the allergens. Within the house, ensure that your air filters in the air conditioner are cleaned regularly.
Switch to spectacles or consider lasik surgery, if you wear contacts regularly and often suffer from eye allergies. Alternatively, you could switch to daily disposable lenses to avoid the buildup of airborne allergens on the surface of the lenses.
Non prescriptions eye drops that help lubricate the eyes are easily available over the counter and can help relieve itchiness. This can also keep your eyes from drying out and thus prevent watery eyes.
The histamines released by the body on contact with an allergen dilute blood vessels and make then abnormally permeable. Antihistamines reduce these reactions by not allowing the histamines to attach themselves to cells in the body. Antihistamines can take a while to react and can make you feel drowsy. Hence it is advisable not to take them when operating heavy machinery or driving.
Meibomianitis is a disease that occurs when the lubrication glands of the eyes called Meibomian glands malfunction. The function of these glands is to produce oil that keeps our eyes lubricated and moisturised. Due to some reasons that we shall be looking at later, these small glands flip their switch and start producing excessive oil or just get inflamed causing Meibomianitis.
Bacteria also collect and prosper on the eyelids in the extra oil adding to the malaise.
So, how do you confirm that you have Meibomianitis?
Look out for these symptoms:
Like with all diseases, the severity of symptoms varies from patient to patient. A few may experience only mild symptoms, while others have to grapple with severe irritation and burning.
We suggest that you don’t wait for your symptoms to become extreme before you visit your doctor.
Root Causes of Meibomianitis:
We already know that Meibomianitis occurs when the meibomian glands in the eyelids don’t function properly.
But why does this happen?
The answer is that Meibomianitis is caused by any condition that increases oil production in oil glands. Like:
Meibomianitis, however, is not contagious.
Diagnosis and Cure:
When you go to a doctor with symptoms of meibomianitis, he will examine your eyes, focusing on eyelids and the front surface of your eyeball. By doing this, he will be able to identify whether you have blocked meibomian glands.
Next, he will use a swab to collect a sample of the crust or oil from your eyes and send this sample to a lab to be tested for bacteria.
If the test is positive, your doctor will recommend a thorough cleaning of your eyelids with warm water. He may also prescribe antibiotics or steroids to treat your eye condition in form of eye drops or creams applied directly to your eyelids, or in pill form.
Apart from this, you may have to forego wearing of contact lenses and treatment for your acne and rosacea. We also recommend that you go make-up free as this causes a buildup of bacteria and always maintain proper eye hygiene so that your oil glands remain infection - free always.
Dry eyes are a common phenomenon that develops when the tears do not provide sufficient moisture to your eyes. This may also be the result of inadequate production of tears by the tear ducts. This condition cannot be cured permanently; however, treatments usually help.
Signs and symptoms of dry eyes:
1. A scratchy, burning and a stinging sensation in the eyes
2. Mucous surrounding the eyes
3. Sensitivity to light
4. Redness of the eyes
5. A feeling that something is stuck in the eyes
6. Problems in wearing contact lenses
7. Vision problems, especially while driving at night
8. Watery eyes caused due to the irritation that stems from dry eyes
9. Blurred vision
What are the causes?
1. Tears are a mix of fatty oils, water and mucus. This combination safeguards your eyes from any sort of infection in addition to keeping your ocular surface (the cornea surface) clear and smooth. Your eyes dry up if the tear ducts do not produce enough tears; medically, this condition is termed ‘keratoconjunctivitis sicca’. It can occur due to:
2. Increased drying up or evaporation of the tears caused due to exposure to various kinds of smoke, dry air or wind, less of blinking while focusing on any particular activity or an object and eyelid problems such as in-turning of the eyelids (entropion) and out-turning of the eyelids (ectropion) can contribute to this irritating condition.
3. Imbalance in any of the layers constituting a tear film (made of oil, mucus and water) might lead to this condition.
If you are diabetic, know that high blood sugar level can take a severe toll on your eyes in the form of blurry vision, cataract, glaucoma and retinopathy, if left unchecked. It can even lead to partial/complete blindness in young adults. Nonetheless, a strict control over your blood sugar count would prove effective in preventing such eye complications in the long run.
How does diabetes affect the eyes?
Blurry Vision: Diabetes can cause swelling of the eye and damage to your vision. In case you are already using glasses, it might bring about fluctuations in your optical power. Once your blood sugar count gets back to the normal level; that is within the range of 70 to 130 milligrams per deciliter, your vision would be normal again; though this might take some time (about 3 months).
Cataract: Eye lens works just like a camera, helping you to focus on a particular object. Cataract is a condition wherein this lens gets clouded with debris. Nevertheless, diabetic patients are more vulnerable to cataracts as compared to others. It has to be removed with a surgery wherein an artificial lens replaces the blurry eye lens.
Glaucoma: Pressure starts building up within the eyes when fluids do not get drained out normally. This damages the nerves and blood vessels, thereby causing vision loss, blurred vision, watery eyes and headaches. Generally, glaucoma can be cured with laser, surgery, eye drops or medicines. Medications do help in alleviating eye pressure, reducing excessive fluid production and facilitating drainage. Having said that, diabetics are likely to develop neovascular glaucoma, a rare complication wherein new blood vessels form on the iris (the ring-shaped colored region in the eye), obstructing the normal fluid flow and further increasing the eye pressure.
Diabetic Retinopathy: The retina is a cluster of cells behind the eyes that absorb light and converts them into images which are then transmitted to the brain through the optic nerve. High blood sugar levels damage the tiny blood vessels of the retina, leading to a condition called Diabetic retinopathy.
The stages of diabetic retinopathy
The retina requires a constant blood supply via a network of small blood vessels. In due course of time, a high blood sugar count might damage those blood vessels; primarily across three stages:
Background Retinopathy: This is a condition wherein tiny lumps develop in your blood vessels, causing slight bleeding that usually does not affect your eye sight.
Pre-proliferative Retinopathy: This is a condition characterized by significant bleeding from the eyes as a result of the blood vessels being severely affected.
Proliferative Retinopathy: Proliferative retinopathy is a condition wherein new blood vessels and scar tissues that bleed easily develop on the retina, leading to vision loss.
Are you at risk?
The risks of Diabetic retinopathy increase if one is suffering from diabetes. Apart from this, certain other factors could also aggravate the chances of this disorder:
Rise or fall in blood sugar
Rise in the blood pressure level
Excessive consumption of tobacco
When should you call a doctor?
When you experience spots in your vision
In case of blurred and fluctuating vision
Impaired color vision
Sudden loss of vision
Redness and pain in the eyes
These signs serve as an early wake up call. However, it’s not mandatory for these signs to indicate towards diabetic retinopathy.
How to protect your eyes from diabetes and keep them healthy?
Get your eyes checked periodically and try and maintain a steady blood sugar count.
Take the prescribed medicines on time.
Try to achieve and then maintain optimal weight levels.
Avoid a sedentary lifestyle and engage in some sort of physical activity.
Control your cholesterol levels by picking the right kind of foods.
Abstain from smoking and limit alcohol consumption.
If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a doctor and ask a free question.