Expert answers: Why children with diabetes face high risk of eye damage - The Indian Express

Source: The Indian Express

Diabetes is a crippling health condition, as an abnormally high blood glucose or sugar level can lead to a number of complications. This can happen to anybody, from new-born infants to children to young adolescents and even adult. Insulin hormone, produced by the pancreas, helps our body absorb and use glucose in the cells of liver, muscles, fat etc. Type 1 diabetes is typically an autoimmune disorder occurring in a younger age, where the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin, whereas in Type 2 diabetes the body typically develops insulin resistance, leading to abnormally high blood sugar levels. Although traditionally, type 2 diabetes has been said to be more prevalent among older adults, in recent times it has come to afflict younger people too, primarily due to poor lifestyle habits. If children are afflicted with diabetes, they are more likely to face additional health implications in terms of kidney, heart and eye health in their lifetime. In fact, children with diabetes also face a very high risk of eye damage. Increase in type 2 diabetes cases than type 1 According to a study, among people aged 19 and below, while type 1 diabetes cases rose by 45 per cent over a period of 16 years, type 2 diabetes cases shot up by a whopping 95 per cent during the same period. Experts are clear in their view that it is variables such as a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, lack of physical exercise, and obesity which have been responsible for this surge in type 2 diabetes among the younger population. Type 2 diabetes is increasing among people aged 19 and below. (Source: Pexels)Who is more likely to get type 2 diabetes? While family history and genetics play a role, people with an inactive lifestyle, poor diet consisting of highly processed carbohydrates and junk foods are more likely to get this disease. There has been a significant rise in teens developing type 2 diabetes as a consequence of the above risk factors. How does diabetes affect the eyes? Diabetes affects the microvasculature or small blood vessels of our body and the eye, typically affecting the retina (which is the neural tissue at the back of the eye responsible for perceiving light and sending images to the brain), leading to a condition called diabetic retinopathy. Indiabetic retinopathy, because of high blood sugar levels, the blood vessels of the retina become leaky and obstructed, severely affecting the blood supply to the retina. In response, the eyes grow abnormal new blood vessels, which bleed into the eye and severely impact vision, eventually progressing to retinal detachment. Further, if blood vessels in the retina begin to leak fluid into the macula — which is responsible for sharp, central vision — the condition is called diabetic macular edema (DME) resulting in blurry vision. In another scenario, if the angle of the eye between the iris and cornea is blocked by new blood vessels preventing drainage of fluid out of the eye, it is called neovascular glaucoma. Notably, diabetic retinopathy, DME and neovascular glaucoma, if left untreated for long, can lead to blindness. Uncontrolled diabetes may also predispose to premature cataract formation, corneal damage and refractive changes in the eye. What parents/children should do: measures to keep away diabetes-induced eye troubles Keep an eye out for any symptoms related to diabetes. Increased thirst and the need for repeated urination, fatigue, darkening of skin particularly in neck and armpits, dry mouth and blurred vision are some of the symptoms which must be watched out for. It is advisable to contact your doctor if these symptoms appear to see if your child should be tested for diabetes. If your child is showing the signs for diabetes, consult a doctor. (Source: Pexels)Secondly, any ocular symptoms of diabetic retinopathy such as blurred and distorted vision, eye floaters and flashes, impaired colour and contrast must alert parents and children and accordingly, they must see an ophthalmologist. If diagnosed with vision threatening diabetic retinopathy, based on the doctors assessment, a course of treatment would follow which might include eye injections, laser treatment and/or surgery. Thirdly, in order to ward off diabetes and other related conditions, parents must encourage their children to eat healthy, engage in some form of physical activity and exercise on a regular basis while maintaining a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index). Remember, if there is no diabetes, there will be no diabetic retinopathy and other related ocular conditions. Even in known diabetics, well maintained blood sugar and blood pressure levels are known to significantly reduce and delay the development of vision threatening diabetic retinopathy and other comorbid conditions. The author is medical director, Vision Eye Centre, New Delhi For more lifestyle news, follow us onInstagram | Twitter | Facebook and don’t miss out on the latest updates!