Nov 23, 2017

All in the blink of an eye

It is impossible to put a true value on your eyes and the gift of sight, but as the most important sense organ, our eyes should be treasured.  The majority of what we experience via our senses, 80 per cent in fact, is through our eyes.  And if other senses such as taste or smell stop working, our eyes step up and take over.  Our eyes play a pretty important role in our day-to-day lives, so it’s safe to say that protecting your eyesight is one of the most important things you can do.     

But as valuable as they are, they are also one of the most vulnerable parts of your body.  And because your eyes are unlikely to hurt, even when there is a problem, it’s easy to neglect them.  The recommendation is that everyone should have an eye test at least once every two years – even if there is no change in your vision. 

An eye test doesn’t just check whether or not you need new glasses, it will often pick up the first signs of an eye condition before you’ve even noticed any symptoms.  And, as with most things, the earlier you can start treatment, the more favourable the outcome is likely to be. In some cases, this may be the difference between saving your sight and not.

Statistics show that one in six adults over the age of 45 are affected by some sort of sight-threatening eye condition.  A common problem amongst these is blurred vision.  Fortunately for many, it’s not a big deal and can be fixed with new glasses or eye drops. But for others, it is the sign of a more serious underlying condition such as diabetes.

Blurred vision is known to be one of the first tell-tale signs and can be caused by the levels of blood sugar in your body being too high or too low.  This is usually an easy one to correct because, once you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, your blood glucose levels should return to normal and your blurred vision disappear.  The more complex scenarios arise when someone who already has diabetes develops blurred vision.

Cue diabetic retinopathy; a condition that is likely to develop with a long history of uncontrolled high blood sugar levels.  It is serious and can affect people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes; the long-term prognosis being decreased eyesight or even blindness.  The condition occurs as a result of damage to the blood vessels of the retina and starts out with only mild vision-related problems.

The unfortunate thing is that diabetic retinopathy is one of those silent menaces and often doesn’t display any symptoms until major damage has already occurred inside the eye.  When symptoms do start to show, however, they are likely to affect both eyes and can include:

  • blurred vision
  • difficulty seeing at night
  • finding it hard to distinguish colours
  • seeing floaters or dark spots
  • a loss of vision

For this reason alone, the importance of a comprehensive eye exam at least once a year cannot be underestimated for people with diabetes.  In general, diabetic-related eye disease can be treated before vision loss occurs. So make sure you report any vision changes, including blurry vision to your doctor as soon as possible.  There are, however, a number of things you can do to reduce your risks of developing eye disease in the first place including tightly controlling your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, keeping fit and maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking. 

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