Laser Eye Surgery Can Help Diabetics Keep Their Sight

eyesight diabetesOne of the most terrifying side effects of diabetes is its ability to damage eyesight, and in severe cases, to cause blindness.  However, doctors now recommend modern laser eye surgery, which can slow eyesight loss by about half.

Diabetes is a disease that affects around 26 million people in theUSand causes serious complications like heart and kidney disease.  Type 2 diabetes, the commoner form, happens when the mechanism that the body uses to absorb and store sugar breaks down.  The body becomes unable to respond to insulin, the hormone that should cause cells to take up the sugar and store it.  There may also be a deficiency in insulin production.  Scientists are still not 100% clear on why this happens, although one of the theories is that a person can “wear out” the insulin response by eating unhealthy sugary and fatty food.

Because the sugars are no longer absorbed by the cells the level of sugar in the bloodstream remains higher for much longer than it should, and this can damage all kinds of tissues across the body.

Diabetic retinopathy, or eye damage, happens when bleeding occurs at the back of the eye.  High blood sugar levels can also cause swelling of the lens itself.  The condition is one of the largest causes of blindness in adults in theUS.  Up to 80% of all diabetics who have had the disease for 10 years or more are affected by this eye damage, although it can be made less likely if the diabetes is managed well.  A diabetic, who keeps his blood sugar levels lower, eats healthily, keeps his weight down and takes plenty of exercise, is less likely to suffer from diabetic retinopathy.

Symptoms of the condition include blurred vision and “floaters” or spots in the eyes, and in severe cases, the patient may lose so much of their sight that they can barely tell light from dark.  Often vision damage is one of the earliest symptoms of the diabetes, and leads to the initial diagnosis.

Laser surgery, which is commonly used as a therapy for vision problems, such as myopia (short sightedness), works by slicing layers from the cornea to change the shape of the eye so that the lens focuses correctly on the retina.  However, in diabetic retinopathy laser surgery can be used to shrink swollen blood vessels and stop bleeding into the eye.  Although some minor loss of color perception or night sight may be experienced, it has been shown to slow sight loss significantly.  Its biggest drawback is the cost, which may be a disincentive to some diabetes patients.

The risk of diabetes can be lowered if you follow a healthy lifestyle, eating plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit and oily fish and less sugar, refined carbs and saturated fats.  Regular exercise and keeping your weight down will also lower your chances of getting this disease.  However, if you have already been diagnosed with it, following this same healthy regime will help keep your diabetes under control, your symptoms controlled, and your chances of side effects like sight damage to a minimum.

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