According to a recent study conducted in 2018, more than four cans a week of diet soda (fizzy drink) a week can lead to a condition known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes. The NHS describe the condition as being “caused by high blood sugar levels damaging the back of the eye”.
If left undiagnosed and untreated, the condition can lead to permanent blindness; something which can be avoided if those with diabetes take precautions.
This includes ensuring blood sugar levels and their cholesterol are at healthy levels and attending diabetic eye screening appointments, these are normally offered to diabetics over the age of 12.
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How does diabetes impact the eyes?
The area diabetic retinopathy specifically impacts is a part of the eye known as the retina, the part of the eye which receives and organises visual information.
The signals which the retina receives it then sends to the brain which turns those signals into the images people see.
In order to function properly, the retina needs a constant supply of blood; consistently high blood sugar can damage the vessels which deliver this blood.
Diabetic neuropathy has three distinct stages. Of these, proliferative retinopathy is the final stage; this is when scar tissue and new blood vessels develop on the retina and cause the vision loss.
What are the other stages?
The other stages are background retinopathy and pre-proliferative retinopathy. In the former the NHS said: “Tiny bulges develop in the blood vessels, which may bleed slightly but do nto usually affect your vision.”
Meanwhile, during pre-proliferative retinopathy the changes are more sever and there is significant bleeding in the eye.
While these symptoms and experiences can sound unnerving, proliferative retinopathy is avoidable through several means.
As well as controlling blood sugar levels, the NHS also recommend:
• Eating a healthy, balanced diet
• Losing weight if overweight
• Regular exercise
• Quitting smoking
• Not exceeding alcohol limits.
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Is diabetic retinopathy something to be worried about?
Diabetic retinopathy is only something to be worried about if someone is diabetic. However, it is good practice to do what one can to preserve their eyesight.
The United States’ CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) has several tips for preserving eyesight.
As well as maintaining blood sugar levels, they also recommend eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Alongside a balanced diet, wearing protective glasses during certain sports can help, as an impact to the eye from a football or other hard object can cause severe damage.
Furthermore, they also recommend that people look into their own family history to find out whether or not there are eyesight related conditions running through the family.
Outside of these tips, it is important to have an annual eyesight test, particularly if problems with vision begin to arise.
As well as picking up any damage to the eye, these exams can also spot the early signs of other, more malicious conditions.
Should these malicious medicinal presences be picked up early, treatment for them will be much easier than if they were detected later.