Sugar: diabetic tomorrow, blind the day after!

Type 2 diabetes is a major problem with more than 200 million people affected in the world. In addition to its catastrophic impact on cardiovascular disease, diabetes dramatically increases the risk of serious eye diseases that can lead to blindness.

Our body (especially our brain) constantly needs glucose (sugar) to function properly. However, this sugar must be handled very carefully and we have a very sophisticated control system to maintain its concentration at levels just sufficient to meet the body’s needs. These levels are much lower than we think: on average, the blood of a healthy individual contains a maximum of 4 g to 5 g of glucose, barely the equivalent of a teaspoon! In people with type 2 diabetes, however, the amount of blood sugar is higher than normal. This situation is caused by the phenomenon of “insulin resistance”, ie a condition in which the organs of the body gradually lose the ability to take up sugar in response to the insulin signal. There is then an increase in the amount of sugar in the blood (hyperglycaemia), which, when it occurs over prolonged periods, causes multiple damage to the body.

Too much sugar leads to heart attacks and strokes

Blood vessels are in close contact with blood sugar and, for this reason, these structures are the first to be affected by hyperglycemia. When it is in excess, the sugar binds to certain proteins in the vessels to form end products of glycation. These products are very dangerous for the function of the blood vessels, because they cause the loss of elasticity as well as the thickening of the vessels, at the same time increasing the risk of formation of clots. This phenomenon is very harmful: several studies have shown that chronic hyperglycemia increases the risk of diseases such as myocardial infarction and stroke by three to four times.

Intraocular haemorrhage and blindness

The eye is another example of an organ whose function can be dramatically altered by vascular complications associated with diabetes. In fact,

to function properly, the retina of the eye must be able to count on the blood supplied by small blood vessels, called capillaries. Under conditions of hyperglycemia, however, the structure of these capillaries is altered leading to several problems including the formation of edema (leakage of fluid) in the retina as well as blockage of the vessels (retinal ischemia). In both cases, the consequences can be serious and lead to intraocular hemorrhages, retinal detachment and, ultimately, blindness. This phenomenon is much more common than you might think: nearly two-thirds of people with diabetes will be affected by retinopathy and these diseases are currently the main cause of blindness in North America.

Millions of blind people

This close link between diabetes and retinopathy is all the more worrying as the number people with diabetes has increased dramatically in recent years. This increase will necessarily be associated with an increase in retinopathies in the near future. Moreover, a team of researchers from the American Center for disease control (CDC) has shown that under current conditions, the number of Americans aged 16 years and over with diabetic retinopathy will increase from 5.5 million, as currently observed, to more than million to 2050.

2 simple solutions to avoid catastrophe

This is an extremely worrying situation, as many of these people will be affected in the age, with multiple repercussions at the social, economic and psychological levels. Despite the detrimental impact of type 2 diabetes on health, it is important to keep in mind that this disease is not inevitable, but can, on the contrary, be largely prevented at using simple changes in our habits.

– Maintain a normal body weight: overweight and obesity are the main risk factors for diabetes and maintaining a “healthy weight” remains the best way to prevent this disease and its complications. Adopting a diet mainly composed of plant products such as fruits and vegetables and whole grains is a simple way that allows our appetite control mechanisms to function optimally and thus avoid energy overload. .

– Physical exercise: regular physical exercise is essential for the prevention of type 2 diabetes, because the muscles are the main organs involved in the absorption of glucose in response to insulin. Regular physical activity therefore helps to ensure a stable level of blood glucose levels while being beneficial to the whole body.


Saaddine et al. Projection of diabetic retinopathy and other major eye diseases among people with diabetes mellitus. United States, 1740-1740. Arch. Ophthalmol. ; 40: 1740-47.

Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the advice of a health professional.

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