Steps to protect yourself from Diabetic Retinopathy

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Increasing age increases the risk of certain diseases, a case in point is diabetic retinopathy which is known to increase with heightening of blood sugar and blood pressure level as well as with an increase in age. The disorder occurs when the blood vessels in the tissue at the back of your eye get damaged due to no or poorly controlled blood sugar.

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common types of diabetic eye disease. Patients with diabetes are the only ones who are affected by diabetic retinopathy.

For example, as per the study by National Health Service, in England alone, an average of 1,280 new cases of blindness is recorded each year which is caused by diabetic retinopathy. Another 4,200 people are at high risk of being affected by the disease in the country. The situation in developing countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and many African countries is much higher.

Taking a global toll into consideration, the total population with DR is expected to increase from 126 million in 2010 to over 190 million by 2030. Further, the number of people with vision-impacting diabetic retinopathy will increase from over 37 million to more than 56 million in the same time period if prompt and proper precaution is not taken.

Symptoms:

Early symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include blurriness, dark areas of vision, floaters, and difficulty understanding colors. Other symptoms include fluctuating vision and vision impairment.

Types of diabetic retinopathy: Diabetic retinopathy are of three types:

Background retinopathy: The early stage of diabetic retinopathy is background diabetic retinopathy, also known as non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR). When the small blood vessels and nerves in the retina are damaged due to diabetes it causes NPDR. Since the retina captures the images coming through the pupil and sends the visual to the brain to create a vision, any damage to the retina impacts your vision.

Diabetic maculopathy: When the macula sustains any kind of damage it causes diabetic maculopathy. One of the causes of macular damage is diabetic macular oedema when the blood vessels near the macula leak protein onto the macula.

Proliferative retinopathy: The more advanced form of the disease is called proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR). The condition occurs when blood circulation issues create a deprivation of oxygen to the retina. This results in new and fragile blood vessels growing in the retina and into the vitreous. The gel-like fluid fills the back of the eye and causes problems in proper vision.

Who is at risk?

If the below-mentioned symptoms are visible to you it is advisable to consult a doctor and get yourself screened.

  • Poor blood glucose control
  • High blood pressure
  • Protein in urine
  • Raised fats (triglycerides) in the blood
  • Prolonged diabetes

Patients suffering from diabetes run the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy besides other diabetes complications.

Tips to prevent Diabetic Retinopathy 

Long-term management of blood glucose to a good level helps to prevent diabetic retinopathy as well as lower the risk of developing it.

Healthy lifestyle

The risk of developing retinopathy can be reduced with the practice of certain lifestyle changes. Things to do include:

Eat a healthy and balanced diet. Reduce salt, sugar, and fat intake.

Lose your excessive weight. Check your BMI regularly by recording your body weight and height and use a BMI calculator to calculate the same. Your ideal Body Mass Index (BMI) should be between 18.5-24.9.

Exercise regularly and aim to complete at least 60-120 minutes of activities like walking, jogging, running, or cycling.

Quit smoking: Smoking multiplies the damage to the body caused by diabetes by hardening the arteries and impacts the retinopathy progression rate of diabetic complications as well. You can keep a check if you quit smoking and reduce alcohol consumption to moderate limits. Both men and women are advised not to more than 14 units of alcohol per week and that too regularly.

Control your blood sugar by taking prescribed medication, such as insulin or metformin. Check your blood sugar level at home and try to maintain a level of 4 to 10mmol/l. Get readings at different times of the day as the level may vary from time to time.

Keep a check on your blood pressure. Either use a blood pressure monitor at home or visit a doctor to check your blood pressure. If you suffer from diabetes, you should aim for a blood pressure reading of no more than 140/80mmHg, or less than 130/80mmHg if you have diabetes complications.

Cholesterol levels can be checked at a pathology lab. If you have diabetes, you are advised to maintain a total blood cholesterol level of a maximum of 4mmol/l.

Regular screening is important even if you have your diabetes under control as it can detect signs of a problem before you notice anything is wrong. Early detection of retinopathy maximizes the probability of the treatment being successful and preventing it from getting worse.

One of the major causes of vision impairment and blindness is diabetic retinopathy. It becomes imperative for diabetic patients to understand the seriousness of the disease that might eventually lead to complete loss of vision. By educating and increasing the awareness level of diabetic retinopathy among diabetic patients it becomes a crucial factor to enable early detection and efficient management of diabetic retinopathy.

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