Diabetes (diabetes mellitus) is a generalized illness with high blood sugar caused by the body being unable to properly breakdown, utilize and store food.

The high levels of sugar in the blood causes changes that affect different parts of the body including the heart, the kidneys, the nerves, and the eyes at the same time. The effect of the high sugar levels on the retina (the light sensitive membrane in the eye) is called diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy is a very important cause of blindness among diabetics. It occurs much earlier and is much more severe in diabetic patients whose blood sugar is not well controlled. It is a disease that usually affects the two eyes although it may be more severe in one.

It is essential for a diabetic patient to control his/her blood sugar level. The benefits of good blood sugar control in a diabetic cannot be over emphasized. Diabetes is a life long illness with the potential for cumulative complications. Diabetics whose blood sugar is not well controlled are more likely to go blind and to die young than their counterparts who have good blood sugar control.

1. Regular health check-up with the endocrinologist (diabetes doctor) and the dietician are very important. They would advise the patient on what to eat, which drugs to use, and how to use them.

2. Regular eye check-up with the ophthalmologist is essential for sustaining good vision.

An individual who has diabetic retinopathy would notice deterioration in his/her vision. The deterioration may be gradual and progressive or sudden and profound depending on what is happening inside the patient’s eye.

Some of the changes that may cause deterioration in the vision of a diabetic are difficult to treat so it is important to detect them before they cause any damage. This underscores the importance of regular eye check-up.

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