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World Diabetes Day 2019: All you need to know about heart failure and Diabetic Macular Edema

Every year, World Diabetes Day is observed on November 14 to raise awareness about the condition and ways to manage the same. The theme for this year is 'The Family and Diabetes'.

India is home to 72 million people suffering from diabetes, and is known as the diabetic capital of the world. Poor lifestyle is the key reason for early onset of diabetes among Indians — an average 10 years earlier than people living in other developing countries. “It is critical to understand that diabetes is much more than managing blood sugar levels, because in the long-term, it poses a huge risk for other chronic diseases like heart failure and blindness due to Diabetic Macular Edema (DME),” say Dr Sundeep Mishra, professor of cardiology, AIIMS, New Delhi and Dr Raja Narayanan, Hon. Secretary of VRSI.

Every year, World Diabetes Day is observed on November 14 to raise awareness about the condition and ways to manage it. The theme for this year is ‘The Family and Diabetes’. So, on World Diabetes day, let’s understand the causes and symptoms of heart failure and DME:

What is heart failure?

Heart failure is a progressive condition where the heart cannot pump enough blood around the body. This happens because the heart muscle, which is responsible for the pumping action, weakens or stiffens over time.

Heart failure is often confused with a heart attack. But it must be noted that they are two different cardiovascular diseases. “Recent studies indicate a strong connection between heart failure and type 2 diabetes. Diabetes increases the risk for the development of heart failure because of diabetic cardiomyopathy. Heart failure patients with diabetes are more likely to be hospitalised, compared to patients without diabetes,” says Dr Mishra.

Know what is cardiac arrest and how is it different from heart attack

Symptoms of heart failure

Diabetes patients should pay close attention to the following symptoms and seek an appointment with a cardiologist, if they notice these signs:

1. Shortness of breath: Heart failure patients experience shortness of breath, due to fluid retention in the lungs. It is often confused by diabetes patients as a symptom of low levels of sugar in the body.

2. Constant tiredness and fatigue: Fatigue is one of the most common problems associated with poorly controlled blood sugar. It could also be a symptom of heart failure because when the heart is unable to pump blood properly, the body becomes devoid of oxygen and experiences fatigue.

3. Swelling in the ankles, legs and abdomen: Fluid build-up might cause swelling in ankles, legs and abdomen. This is one of the key symptoms of heart failure. Diabetics should be extra careful to not confuse the swelling as a result of diabetes.

Timely diagnosis and effective treatment prevent the condition from worsening.

What is DME?

Poor management of diabetes can lead to blindness due to diabetic retinopathy, and DME is its most common form. It arises when the damaged blood vessels inside the eye cause swelling of the retina (the light-sensitive area at the back of your eye), causing blurring of vision and inability to read.

“Every person with diabetes is at risk of developing this illness, and almost 1 in 3 people living with diabetes have some degree of diabetic retinopathy, which does not show symptoms till the last stage. The only way to detect early retinopathy is to undergo preventive screening. It is mandatory for all patients with diabetes to have their retina check-up as soon as they are diagnosed to have diabetes even if there are no symptoms of an eye problem,” explains Dr Narayanan.

Symptoms of DME

1. Blurry vision: If an object or landscape in front of you looks blurry, it could indicate an advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy.

2. Black spots or patches: If your line of vision is marred by tiny black spots or patches, you should immediately visit a retina specialist.

3. Straight lines that look wavy: Observe carefully if straight lines or objects appear “not so straight” or wavy, while conducting your routine activities.

These symptoms may affect your ability to read, write, drive, recognise faces and deteriorate the overall quality of life. If not diagnosed in a timely manner, DME can lead to permanent vision loss. This kind of blindness is therefore preventable but is difficult to cure despite treatments for the same being available.

If you are a diabetes patient, ensure that you get your eyes checked by an eye specialist immediately even if you do not have an eye problem, and don’t miss out on any scheduled appointment.

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