Diabetes mellitus occurs when the body is unable to produce insulin or when the insulin produced is not effective enough.
The term diabetes is used to describe 2 main types of the disease:
Type 1 diabetes – in which the body does not produce insulin at all or does not produce enough insulin. It is controlled by insulin injections and occurs in 10% of diabetics.
Type 2 diabetes – in this case, the body cannot use the insulin it produces or does not produce enough insulin. This type of diabetes requires diet, lifestyle changes, and sometimes injections and medication, which accounts for 90% of cases.
Diabetes affects many organs and often reduces their effectiveness. Both types of diabetes affect the heart, kidneys, skin and nervous system.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes. Diabetes affects the small blood vessels. Their blockage and rupture can affect vision. Diabetic retinopathy can get worse over time and has several stages:
Background retinopathy: The earliest forms of the disease are bubbles on the retina and swelling of small blood vessels. The blood vessels weaken and bleeding may occur in the retina. This does not affect vision, but the ophthalmologist can detect abnormalities with small dots behind the eyes.
Preliferative retinopathy: a condition in which blood flow to the retina is restricted.
Maculopathy: occurs when the macula (yellow spot) area begins to break down.
Proliferative retinopathy: a condition in which damaged blood vessels begin to produce chemicals that promote tissue overgrowth. As a result, new blood vessels begin to grow from the destroyed blood vessels in the hopes that they can deliver the necessary chemicals and oxygen to the retina. The new vessels are extremely thin and prone to bleeding. Proliferative retinopathy is the most likely cause of partial or total vision loss.
A cataract occurs when the lens of the eye loses its transparency. The lens is located just behind the iris and allows the eye to focus on the image projected onto the retina. Cataracts are not always caused by diabetes, but it is the most common cause in young people.
Studies have shown that diabetes increases the likelihood of cataracts by 60%. Cataracts are usually treated by surgery. The damaged lenses are replaced with artificial ones. The risk of this surgery is considered minimal, and about 99% of patients report a significant improvement in vision.
Glaucoma is the disease most closely associated with diabetes. There is no doubt that angiogenic glaucoma results from this disease. Scientists believe that open-angle glaucoma also occurs under the influence of diabetes.
In the final stages of diabetic retinopathy, the retina is deprived of oxygen and nutrients. This causes the release of chemicals that stimulate the growth of new blood vessels to supply nutrients to the eye tissue. These new vessels are weak and vulnerable to damage. They become a trabecular meshwork and leak fluid in front of you. This increases pressure in the eye, damaging the optic nerve and affecting your vision.
Glaucoma can be treated in several ways. Eye drops, surgery, or laser correction are common solutions. But nothing is more important than early diagnosis, because the damage is irreversible.