Diabetes concerns the whole family

Do you have a family member that is diabetic? Then it is vital that you consider looking at the disease as the whole family. Often we see patients that are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes yet find it impossible to control their sugar levels in the family environment, as the family does not make the necessary adjustments. They end up taking more and more medication fighting the symptoms and not the cause. Diabetes is a very serious disease and most people don’t see it that way. It is indeed a silent killer.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder whereby the body attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, causing insufficient insulin production and uncontrolled blood glucose levels in the blood.

Type 2 diabetes is a condition where the body cannot properly utilise the insulin it produces, resulting in uncontrolled blood glucose levels.

Factors causing type 2 diabetes are complex, and although there isn’t a single cause, there are some well-known predisposing factors.

Essentially Type 2 diabetes is caused by both insulin resistance and progressive beta cell damage resulting in too little insulin being secreted by the pancreas.

By the time a patient is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, up to 50% of the cells in the pancreas that make insulin (the beta cells) have been damaged.

However, the decline in the number of the cells with the metabolic consequences of insulin resistance might have been present (and asymptomatic) for up to 10 years before diagnosis.

Along with hypertension (raised blood pressure) and elevated cholesterol, this predisposes to arterial damage years before the diagnosis of the diabetes. So, at the time of diagnosis of diabetes, you are already at risk for cardiovascular disease.

Your risk of getting type 2 diabetes is higher if:


- There is a history of diabetes in your family

- You are middle-aged and older

- You are overweight

- You are middle-aged and have high blood pressure

- You have given birth to a child of more than 4.5 kg, had gestational diabetes or have/had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Type 2 diabetes is also associated with lifestyle factors like:

- Insufficient physical activity

- Poor diet

- Body type where extra weight is carried around the waist. Insulin resistance is the main metabolic abnormality leading to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Diabetic eye disease can affect many parts of the eye, including the retina, macula, lens and the optic nerve.

Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye conditions that can affect people with diabetes.

  • Diabetic retinopathy affects blood vessels in the light-sensitive tissue called the retina that lines the back of the eye. It is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness among working-age adults.
  • Diabetic macular oedema. A consequence of diabetic retinopathy, DAME is swelling in an area of the retina called the macula.

Diabetic eye disease also includes cataract and glaucoma:

  • Cataract  is a clouding of the eye’s lens. Adults with diabetes are 2-5 times more likely than those without diabetes to develop cataract. Cataract also tends to develop at an earlier age in people with diabetes.
  • Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve—the bundle of nerve fibres that connects the eye to the brain. Some types of glaucoma are associated with elevated pressure inside the eye. In adults, diabetes nearly doubles the risk of glaucoma.

All forms of diabetic eye disease have the potential to cause severe vision loss and blindness.


Living in a family as a diabetic can become challenging if the family does not support your lifestyle changes. The temptations are mostly too big to ignore and more often than not the patient will fall off the wagon. This result is a  downward spiral where blood sugar levels are fluctuating all over the place.

My advice to you: Start by avoiding a few things like

-Sugar – for obvious reasons

-White Bread

-Reduce the intake of processed foods – Anything that is packaged , precooked or in a can

-Do not buy cool drinks or juices – switch to water and sugarless tea

-Reduce your carbohydrate intake to a minimal

-Check the labels of the groceries your buy. You will be surprised at the amount of added sugar. 4 g of sugar equal one teaspoon


If the whole family changes their diet and increases physical activity , not only will the person affected benefit but in the long run everyone is on the right path to a healthier and more energetic life.


Yours in eye care Madhu

Resources – National Eye Institute , Health 24