Seeing is believing and yesterday, I took for granted how lucky I am to have my sense of sight. I tried to put in my contacts yesterday and as soon as my they got close to touching my eyes, a burning sensation occurred – like soap in your eyes – that caused immense pain. I thought I had gotten soap on my contacts or some sort of residue on the lens; I tried at least five different pairs (I wear daily disposables from Acuvue) but it was the same result each time.
I ended up going to the local optometrist at Costco for a checkup and I explained my situation. After examination, she informed me that my eyes were indeed dry and I also had allergens on my pupil which was causing the burning sensation when putting on my contacts. She told me to use lubricating eye drops and just deal with the pain because it would go away once the contacts are in place.
From this experience in itself, I realized how lucky I am to be able to see and I wanted to point out the related dangers between having diabetes and the loss of vision. When diabetes is not being properly managed and blood glucose levels are out of control, complications to the eye can occur resulting in loss of vision and even blindness. In fact Dr. Gary Rankin who is an ophthalmologist at the Retina and Diabetic Eye Center explains that 80% of diabetics (type 1 and 2) will develop retinopathy – acute damage to the retina of the eye caused by damage of its blood vessels – within ten to fifteen years of being diagnosed with diabetes.
The three most common forms of eye diseases caused by diabetes are listed below:
Diabetic macular edema (DME) which is the build-up of fluid in the macula – the part of the retina controlling the most detailed vision abilities -due to leaking blood vessels.
Vitreous hemorrhage occurs when blood vessels in the retina leak into the vitreous space of the eye, which is filled with clear gel in the space between the lens and the retina.
Retinal detachment is the result of abnormal blood vessels stimulating the growth of scar tissue. Complete detachment of the retina to the back of the eye can occur resulting in vision loss.
If you have diabetes, it’s highly recommended that you see an eye care professional such as an optometrist or ophthalmologist at least once a year and opt in for the dilated eye exam, which allows the eye care professional to look in the pupil to see inside of the eye more easily and determine if there is any damage to the retina.
Losing your vision may seem scary but diabetic retinopathy can be easily managed. The best way to prevent loss of vision by diabetes is to keep blood glucose levels in control. Keeping A1C levels under control at 7.0 or less is extremely important as it helps to reduce the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. In fact the American Diabetes Association says that even if retinopathy develops, patients with tight control of their blood sugar tend to have mild, non-sight threatening retinopathy.
I can only imagine how difficult the experience of losing your sight must be. Being a diabetic creates a lot of “what if” thoughts but luckily, those what if’s can be controlled by smart and healthy choices. Remember to always keep blood glucose levels in check, eat healthy, exercise, and be grateful for the blessings bestowed upon us.