There are many different diseases and conditions that can affect our eyes and put our vision at risk. Diabetic eye disease and hypertension are two of the lesser-known threats to our eyesight.
Diabetic eye disease is a complication of diabetes – a condition where a patient is unable to control their blood sugar levels. As a result, the patient is more likely to experience a number of other eye diseases, including:
Diabetic retinopathy. This is where persistently high blood sugar levels cause damage to the blood vessels at the back of the eye, which left untreated, can lead to blindness.
Diabetic macular edema. This is characterized by an accumulation of fluid in the macula part of the retina that occurs due to leaking blood vessels.
Glaucoma. A condition that occurs when the pressure in the eye rises to such an extent that is causes damage to the optic nerve. This compromises patient vision and can lead to irreversible blindness.
Diabetic eye diseases are fairly common, with around 1 in 3 people with diabetes over the age of 40 already showing some signs of diabetic retinopathy, particularly if their diabetes isn’t well controlled. In many cases, patients aren’t even aware that their eyes are affected unless the issue is detected at their routine eye exams. This is because the damage to the eyes tends to develop very slowly over a number of months or years.
If you are diagnosed with diabetes, you will be advised to come in for diabetic eye disease screening on a regular basis which will enable your eye doctor to monitor the condition of your eyes and the health of the blood vessels that serve them. This will allow them to detect any concerning changes early on so that you can obtain treatment to prevent any symptoms or vision loss. You will also need to keep your diabetes under control through diet and medication. Your general doctor will be able to support you with this.
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated.
High blood pressure does run in families, but you won’t necessarily develop it just because you’re a close family member has it. Some of the other causes of hypertension include:
Too much salt in your diet
A lack of physical activity
Excess alcohol consumption
Being over the age of 50
Certain medical conditions, including diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid disease, and lupus
Taking certain medications including some contraceptive pills, steroids, and antidepressants
If you suffer from persistently high blood pressure, over time it can damage the tiny blood vessels that supply blood to your eyes and keeps them healthy. This can cause a range of eye problems to develop including:
Retinopathy. If the blood vessels become too damaged, it can prevent enough blood from flowing through the retina to the retina, and this can lead to blurred vision, and eventually, a total loss of your sight. If you also suffer from diabetes, your risk of retinopathy is further increased.
Optic neuropathy. This refers to nerve damage that occurs when blood flow is blocked and prevented from reaching the optic nerve. This can destroy nerve cells in your eyes, which can cause temporary or even permanent vision loss.
Choroidopathy. This is characterized by the accumulation of fluid under the retina, which is the light-sensitive area of cells at the back of the eyeballs. This fluid can cause scarring that leads to distorted and impaired vision.
Stroke. Patients who have persistently high blood pressure are at greater risk of having a stroke, which is a medical emergency that is well known as a cause of optic nerve damage and vision loss.
The only effective way to prevent vision loss caused by hypertension is to take proactive steps to get and keep your blood pressure under control. Your general doctor and eye doctor will be able to talk to you about the best ways of doing this, which usually involves a combination of:
Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight
A healthy, balanced diet that is proven to help with blood pressure
Taking regular exercise
Taking any blood pressure medications as prescribed
Minimizing stress where possible
If you would like to talk to our experienced team in Miami, FL about either diabetic eye disease or hypertension, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.