Clouded vision could be pointer to diabetes (Nov 14 is World Diabetes Day)

November 14th, 2008 - 12:43 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 14 (IANS) If your eyes feel blurry and your vision is clouded, don’t just dismiss it as fading eyesight. It could be an indication of diabetes and could even lead to loss of vision if left untreated, say doctors.Diabetic retinopathy is a serious condition of the eyes caused due to diabetes, says Mahipal Sachdev, medical director of Centre for Sight that is holding a free diabetic eye screening camp in the capital.

“More than 25 percent diabetics suffer from eye-related problems, including eye infections, conjunctivitis, cataract and glaucoma,” Sachdev, who was formerly with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), told IANS.

“However, these conditions don’t lead to vision loss, they are treatable. But diabetic retinopathy, which is the adverse effect of diabetes on the retina - the light sensitive innermost layer of the eye, can lead to vision loss if not dealt with urgently,” he added.

The condition is caused in diabetics due to the “mismatch” in the oxygen supply to the blood vessels in the retina. The retina gets lesser than required supply of oxygen. This leads to stimulus for new blood vessels to be formed - called relative anoxia.

“These new blood vessels are unstable and tend to leak and bleed. They cause irreversible damage to the retina. In an advanced stage, it can lead to loss of vision,” said Sachdev.

The damage caused by diabetic retinopathy cannot be reversed, but arrested. Therefore, the stage at which a person is diagnosed with the condition and at which treatment begins is of utmost importance.

The mainstay of the treatment is through laser, with which the “non essential part of the retina is burnt away and the mismatch in the oxygen supply gets balanced and the stimulus for new blood vessels goes off”, said Sachdev.

The prevalence of diabetic retinopathy is directly proportional to the diabetic stage of the patient and the blood sugar control. The added causes are high blood pressure, high altered lipid profile and renal complications. If the person is a smoker - the adverse effects get exaggerated.

According to Sachdev, a lot of diabetics don’t know that their eyes can be adversely affected and don’t come for annual check ups. Even in advanced countries like the US, diabetes is a leading cause of eye problems.

Around four to five diabetics are diagnosed for the condition when they come to an opthalmologist with an eye problem.

“When patients come with dimmed and cloudy vision, we ask for a test of the blood sugar level, and many turn out to be diabetics,” he said.

The Centre for Sight has six centres in the National Capital Region (NCR) and will hold camps Friday, where they will have free eye screenings and free tests for blood glucose levels to detect diabetes. The team consists of 30 eye specialists, including six who were with AIIMS earlier.

According to Sachdev, 15 percent of the urban Indian population is estimated to have diabetes.

“Delhi has a population of 1.2 crore (12 million), and an estimated 15 percent of them have diabetes. In rural areas, four to five percent of the population is said to have diabetes.

“In urban areas, the percentage is more because of the preference for junk food, lack of exercise, sedentary lifestyle and also genetic factors, like some people are predisposed to diabetes and early cardiac problems.

“In contrast, rural patients don’t eat pizzas and burgers and walk a lot that helps them burn off excess calories. Their food is also much healthier,” he said.

Centre for Sight provides long term regular treatment for those suffering from diabetic retinopathy. Even in cases of advanced cases of bleeding in eyes, the centre provides advanced vitrectomy microsurgery, he said.

A laser surgery costs Rs.3,000 per sitting and normally three-four sittings are required to arrest the condition of diabetic retinopathy, which along with strict diet regimentation would help patients, Sachdev added.

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