Diabetes and Your Vision
Seniors with high blood-sugar levels (diabetes) are at a higher risk for eye health issues. Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) is an eye disease that attacks the vessels in the back of the eye, and left untreated, results in reduced vision or even blindness.
DME begins with uncontrolled diabetes. The high blood sugar levels harm all the blood vessels of the body. The vessels in the retina of the eye are severely injured. The retina’s job is to send images to the brain, and an injury of the retina results in poor images being being sent.
The body naturally reacts to the harm by producing more of the protein called Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF). If there is an over production of VEGF, it will weaken the walls of the blood vessels and overtime the blood vessel develops small holes that leak blood into the retina. The retina then swells and thickens is a condition known as Diabetic Retinopathy. The macula lies in the center of the retina and its role is create a clear, sharp image and send it to the brain. When it becomes swollen the clarity of the image is lost.
An Edema is the medical term for swelling caused by fluid build-up. Simply put DME is a fluid build-up in the back of the eye, caused by diabetes.
Those who are at much higher risk of DME are those seniors who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoke or live a very sedentary life. Others that may be at risk are those with a long period of untreated Diabetic Retinopathy, pregnant, Hispanic or African-American.
There are two types of DME, Focal DME which is small spots of fluid leaking, and Diffuse DME which are leaks and swelling throughout the macula.
One problem for seniors is that they could have DME and not even know it. The changes in vision are so slow that they do not get detected, or they may have DME in only one eye. However, for those seniors who do experience symptoms, their macula are unable to produce sharp, clear images. The colors will become faded and washed out. The image may become wavy or blurred, cause issues with recognizing faces, reading, watching tv, and driving.