Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disease which is characterized by increase of blood sugar concentration and wrong glucose metabolism, either as a result of decreased insulin secretion, or due to reduction of the sensitivity of body cells to insulin.
According to the World Health Organization, in 2006, patients with diabetes exceeded 170 million worldwide, a figure which is expected to be double by 2030, as the incidence of diabetes increases rapidly.
It is estimated that in Greece, the 5.9% of the general population suffers from diabetes. The disease may cause a range of serious complications in adults and children, such as cardiovascular disease, chronic renal failure, nerve damage and eye problems.
How diabetes influences our vision?
Patients with diabetes are more likely to develop eye problems, such as cataracts or glaucoma. However, the main sight’s threat from diabetes is the attack of retina. This condition is known as diabetic retinopathy and occurs in the majority of patients after 10-15 years of the disease.
The earliest stage of the disease is known as diabetic retinopathy’s substrate. At this stage, the arteries in the retina are weakened and leak, thus forming small hemorrhages. The vessels which leak, often lead to edema and vision decrease.
The next stage of the disease is known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy. At this stage, problems in the circulatory system of the retina cause some areas to become ischemic. New, fragile vessels grow, in order to help the circulatory system to maintain adequate oxygen vessels within the retina (neovascularization). Unfortunately, these weakened blood vessels bleed easily and the blood may leak into the retina and vitreous, causing blurring, floaters and vision’s decrease.
In more advanced stages of the disease, continuous, abnormal increase of neovascularization, as well as scarring tissue, may cause serious problems, such as retinal detachment due to traction and glaucoma.