Type 2 diabetes develops when internal mechanisms stop functioning properly, namely the pancreas stops producing a hormone called insulin. This hormone regulates a type of sugar you obtain through eating food called blood sugar. Unregulated blood sugar levels are a forerunner to serious complications, such as heart disease, so people with type 2 diabetes must find alternative ways to stabilise their blood sugar.
The problem is, most people live with diabetes without knowing it because this internal process can take years to produce outward signs.
Signs may eventually appear when consistently blood sugar levels start damaging different areas of the body.
According to Mayo Clinic, symptoms of chronic high blood sugar levels can show up in the eyes when blood sugar damages the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina).
This is known as diabetic retinopathy.
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As the health site explains, you might not have symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy.
As the condition progresses, diabetic retinopathy symptoms may include:
- Spots or dark strings floating in your vision (floaters)
- Blurred vision
- Fluctuating vision
- Impaired colour vision
- Dark or empty areas in your vision
- Vision loss
“Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes,” it adds.
According to the NHS, these symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have diabetic retinopathy, but it’s important to get them checked out.
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How to treat it
Diabetic retinopathy usually only requires specific treatment when it reaches an advanced stage and there’s a risk to your vision.
As the NHS explains, for diabetic retinopathy that is threatening or affecting your sight, the main treatments are:
- Laser treatment – to treat the growth of new blood vessels at the back of the eye (retina) in cases of proliferative diabetic retinopathy, and to stabilise some cases of maculopathy
- Eye injections – to treat severe maculopathy that’s threatening your sight
- Eye surgery – to remove blood or scar tissue from the eye if laser treatment isn’t possible because retinopathy is too advanced
As the NHS points out, the most important part of your treatment is to keep your diabetes under control.
This means committing to a healthy lifestyle to keep blood sugar levels under control.
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Diet forms a key component of blood sugar control.
Diabetes.co.uk elaborates: “Diets for type 2 diabetes should be built around the principles of healthy eating with a focus on foods that do not adversely affect blood glucose levels.”
The health body continues: “As a general guide, your diet should include a good variety of vegetables, sources of unsaturated fats such as nuts, avocados and oily fish, while processed foods should be avoided.”
The NHS says you should eat a wide range of foods – including fruit, vegetables and some starchy foods like pasta.
Health bodies have criticised this piece of advice, however.
Recent research shows that starchy foods such as pasta, which are high in carbohydrate, can send blood sugar levels soaring.
This is because carbs are broken down into glucose relatively quickly and therefore have a more pronounced effect on blood sugar levels than either fat or protein.
A simple way to separate high and low carb foods is to follow the Glycemic Index (GI).
The Glycemic Index (GI), which is found on the front of most food packets, is a relative ranking of carbohydrates in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels.