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The absence of symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes makes it a fiendishly difficult condition to diagnose. As a result, you can have type 2 diabetes for many years without knowing it. If acute symptoms show up, it may indicate that you have untreated type 2 diabetes. If not addressed, these changes can cause marked and sometimes irreversible damage to the body.
To understand how type 2 diabetes can negatively impact the body, an overview of the faulty mechanisms involved is required.
If you have type 2 diabetes, either your pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the insulin it does produce is not sufficiently absorbed by the body’s cells.
Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar – the main type of sugar found in your blood.
Blood sugar supplies the body with energy and nutrients but having too much blood sugar damages blood vessels that supply vital organs in the body.
Stripped of the moderating effect of blood sugar, diabetics are uniquely prone to these health risks.
When high blood sugar levels start to damage the blood vessels in the eyes, otherwise known as diabetic retinopathy, this can give rise to vision problems.
Speaking to the Express.co.uk, Dr Shahram Kashani, retinal surgeon at Ophthalmic Consultants of London, explained: “During the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, small blood vessels in the retina, known as capillaries, become dilated and start to leak fluid which builds up in the central part of the retina, an area known as the macula.
“As fluid builds up in the macula, the healthy cells become starved of oxygen, ultimately causing vision problems.”
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If left untreated, this can be the precursor to diabetic eye disease, which can eventually result in blindness, warns Dr Kashani.
In fact, diabetic eye disease remains the number one cause of blindness among people of working age in the western world, he said.
Clues of diabetic eye disease include straight lines appearing kinked and a gradual blurring of vision, said Dr Kashani.
“A sudden onset of floaters – small dots or squiggles in your vision – could indicate some form of bleeding inside the eye, which occurs in the latter stages of untreated diabetic eye disease,” he said.
According to Dr Kashani, this should be investigated as soon as possible by an experienced eye care professional.
Thankfully, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, services to maintain proper eye health are opening up again, noted Dr Kashani.
He said: “Many opticians are operating on an appointment basis now and the technology they use is able to look at the back of the eye and check if the blood vessels have caused harmful fluid to build up.
“These visual clues of diabetes are invisible to the naked eye but can be diagnosed by eye professionals.”
Dr Kashani added: “That’s why anyone who has already been diagnosed with diabetes should take advantage of the national screenings available.”
How to respond
It is vital that you bring blood sugar levels under control to treat diabetic neuropathy.
“A healthy diet and keeping active will help you manage your blood sugar level,” says the NHS.
“It’ll also help you control your weight and generally feel better,” adds the health body.
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