What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition caused by blood that has high sugar levels passing through the tiny capilaries in the eye.

Blood with high sugar levels is thick and has trouble passing through the tiny capilaries and can cause major dammage.

To illustrate think about water in a container.

If we add just a little amount of sugar into water it’s hard to notice much of a difference in how the water pours out of a the container. But if we add more and more sugar to that water eventually the water gets thick and syrupy and has trouble moving from one place to another.

This is similar to what happens with the blood of a person with diabetes.

Because a diabetic person does not process sugars properly, the amount of sugar in their blood, if not controlled (this can be done in various ways), will continue to rise over normal levels and their blood becomes thick (kind of like syrup).

So how does this hurt the eyes?

Our bodies have many tiny little capilaries. You can find these capilaries in high concentrations in certain parts of the body and one such place is the eyes.

Let’s go back to the illustration of syrup and water but this time let’s think about taking that syrup and pumping it through a network of hoses. You can probably see where this is going.

While large hoses would seemingly not have much trouble accomodating the thick syrup (in the body there are still complications although not as noticeable at first) imagine tiny hoses trying to accomodate circulating the same thick syrup.

It just won’t work properly.

Think of your body as the network of hoses.

The big arteries can accomodate the flow better (that doesn’t mean it’s good for the body) than the tiny cappilaries just can’t take it well. This is why diabetics will many tiomes experience nerve dammage in their extremities (lots of cappilaries there).

In our eyes we don’t have the same nerve ending as our dingers, toes, etc and so diabetics will not experience the tingling sensation that they might get from nerve dammage.

Now think about the sugar in the blood forcing it’s way through those tiny capillaries…you can imagine that this might cause significant dammage and in many cases blockages.

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye disease in diabetics and is the main overall cause of adult blindness in the US.

For a more detailed description of what happens click here.

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