Beware of potential dangers of diabetes in impairing eyesight, says specialist

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 10: Eye complications due to diabetes is a hidden threat to the human vision as they can stealthily creep up without warning signs, according to a specialist from Sunway Medical Centre.

Consultant Ophthalmologist and Medical Retina Specialist Dr Tara Mary George said diabetes could impair the blood vessels in the retina, which is a critical focal point of the eye, leading to damage and irreversible vision loss.

“Diabetes can also influence other aspects of ocular health, causing cataracts or dry eyes, conditions that can be managed without causing permanent vision impairment.

“The most concerning manifestation is diabetic retinopathy, where diabetes affects the retina. It poses a dual threat to vision, bleeding within the retina or the swelling of this delicate tissue, referred to as vitreous hemorrhage and macular edema,” she said in a statement in conjunction with World Sight Day on Oct 12.

Dr Tara suggested individuals diagnosed with diabetes to not wait for the symptoms to surface and seek the counsel of an eye specialist at the earliest possible time as well as practice regular eye check-ups.

She said this includes a comprehensive retina evaluation, which could be conducted through pupil dilation or advanced retinal cameras that eliminate the need for dilation.

“A comprehensive strategy for forestalling vision loss in diabetes includes early diagnosis (regular medical check-ups); routine eye screening (undergo annual eye screenings even without apparent issues); and effective diabetes management.

“Various treatment options for diabetic eye complications include systemic treatment (diabetes control, blood pressure and cholesterol management); intra-vitreal injections (tackle retinal swelling and bleeding) and laser treatment (used in severe cases of vitreous hemorrhage or proliferative retinopathy),” she said.

Dr Tara said there has been an increase in the availability of screening and testing services in recent years as many private hospitals and government health centres have adopted such technologies, rendering screening expedient and hassle-free.

The specialist advised individuals with diabetes to do regular eye screenings as they are swift, uncomplicated procedures that can safeguard one’s vision.

“Prevention remains the linchpin in averting the complications of diabetic retinopathy. Remember, age is not the deciding factor; the key determinants are diabetes control and the duration of living with the condition,” she said.