(WIBW) - It's debated whether "the eyes are the windows to the soul," but they can tell a lot about a person health.
Dr. Bobby Marefat, an opthalmologist with Topeka's Cotton-O'Neil Clinic, says regular eye exams are important for everyone, but especially for people with diabetes.
Marefat says that, as blood sugar increases, it causes changes to the body of the blood vessel, especially the capillaries. Those smaller vessels are in high concentration in the kidney and in the eye.
If those vessels become weak and start to leak, a person could develop a macular edema. That's where fluid collects in the center of the eye and can affect the retina. Marefat says the effect is much the film in an old camera that produces poor images if it gets wet. If the retina has fluid build up, vision declines.
A person also could develop proliferative diabetic retinopathy, where the body tries to build new vessels to make up for the weaker ones. Marefat says those vessels tend to break off and leak inside the eye.
Laser treatments, medications and, in the worst cases, traditional surgery can help the conditions, but prevention and earlier detection are key. Marefat says the earlier treatment begins, the earlier you can save what remains and maybe regain some ground.
Marefat says people with diabetes should have a vision exam at least once a year. Those with a history of eye problems should be seen more frequently.
Since the vessels in the eye can be the first to show damage, it can be a clue to other potential problems. Marefat says it's an early warning sign to know that there may be a problem with blood sugars or with vessels elsewhere in the body.