Diabetic macular edema: protect your eyesight from “sugar”

22.06.2022 – 15:10

Diabetic macular edema
How to protect your eyesight in case of diabetes

Photo: BPR

Retired Hedi E. has been living with the diagnosis of diabetic macular edema for several years.

Regular checks are important for diabetes mellitus in order to be able to identify and treat any secondary diseases in time

Diabetes mellitus can literally open your eyes. Patient Hedi E. also experienced this and presented her with new challenges. The 70-year-old was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 21. As with many other sufferers, she doesn’t notice at first that her eyes are getting worse and worse. When she found it increasingly difficult to see the signs while driving, she was prescribed glasses. But even with visual aids, Hedi’s vision is noticeably on the decline.

Due to his long-standing diabetes, he goes to check-ups regularly, even to the ophthalmologist. There he finally faces the changes. Doctors suspect it is a secondary disease of diabetes mellitus and determine what is known as diabetic macular edema.

The retiree soon realizes that he has no time to waste and discusses his treatment options with his doctor. This encourages her and explains that she can maintain her vision with regular injection treatment. “At first I was afraid of the injection. But after getting over it for the first time, I realized it wasn’t that bad after all, ”Hedi recalls with a smile and adds,“ Your eyesight is also worth fighting for. ”She noticed an improvement in her vision right away. Today she is very grateful to her doctor and happy that they took this step together at the time.

Keep an eye on your eyes

Similar to Hedi, more than 8.5 million people in Germany are living with diabetes mellitus – regular checkups are important to identify and treat possible secondary diseases at an early stage. An appointment with an ophthalmologist should also be considered. Because eye diseases are often already in an advanced stage when the affected person notices the first changes. This can cause those affected to lose vision, which often cannot be completely eliminated. Especially those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes mellitus should have their eyes checked regularly, regardless of age.

Appointments with an eye doctor are in high demand and waiting times can be long. However, the important thing here is that the wait was worth it. A timely and early initiation of treatment can be decisive for the course of the disease.

Diabetes can get into the eye

Diabetes mellitus affects the whole body. The longer the diabetes is present, the greater the risk of complications. Affected people often think primarily of cardiovascular disease or diabetic foot, for example, because sharp fluctuations in blood sugar or an increase in blood sugar levels lead to deposits and damage to blood vessels. What many don’t know: Even the eyes can be affected. Damaged blood vessels can lead to a deterioration in blood circulation, which the ophthalmologist may see as a little bleeding or swelling of the retina. These changes often go unnoticed by patients because they are painless and initially associated with no deterioration in vision. If all this happens in the eye, it is called diabetic retinopathy.

This can lead to the development of a chronic disease, the so-called diabetic macular edema – DME for short. After a while, damaged blood vessels can lead to a lack of oxygen in the eye. To counter this, the body forms new blood vessels in the eye. The messenger substance VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) is responsible for this. However, these blood vessels leak, fluid can leak and enter the cell layers and retina. Due to the accumulation of fluid, vision is severely limited, especially in the macula, which is the sharpest point of vision in the retina.

Sufferers may see uneven, distorted, blurry or wavy vision, and the image may appear uneven.

Possible treatment of diabetic macular edema

Changes in vision are initially unnoticeable, so regular checkups with the ophthalmologist are important. This examines the back of the eye and can detect changes at an early stage. Attention: it is not enough to go to an optician here. If the ophthalmologist detects DME, regular checkups and, above all, a timely start of treatment are important. Appointments for treatment should be held regularly. Here, treatment with an active ingredient that inhibits the VEGF growth factor in the eye is recommended to stop unwanted vascular growth. The drug is injected directly into the eye. It is encouraging that vision loss due to DME can be treated well with medication through this usually painless routine procedure.

Visible successes

Regular treatments are also needed for Hedi E. and this is responsible for the fact that he can resume his various hobbies. She likes to read, leads a singing group for seniors, she lets her creativity run wild when she paints and enjoys the sun in her garden – here she takes care of her pond and prunes her flowers . Driving is no longer a problem for them either. She just doesn’t like driving in the dark at night and in extreme rain. However, she also knows that regular checkups are important and that she must attend treatment appointments. “I am very strict about my checkup and treatment appointments and have my fundus checked regularly. This is the secret to why I am so happy to be able to resume my hobbies.”

The Diabetic Eye Initiative – Inform and exchange

The “The Diabetic Eye” initiative of the “Vocational Training Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired” (BFW Düren), the “Early Detection of Diabetic Eye Diseases” (IFDA) initiative group, “Working Group on Diabetes and Eyes” ( AGDA) and Bayer offers useful information and services and tips on diabetes and the eyes. You will also find a series of personal videos with numerous tips to improve your daily life and the possibility to download patient brochures.

The Facebook page of the same name of the initiative already has more than 21,000 subscribers. The platform offers affected people and their relatives the opportunity to exchange ideas.

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