Diabetes is a metabolic disease that affects how your body uses sugar. Over 30 million Americans have diabetes, including 12 million seniors. Chronic diabetes can cause eye damage that can lead to low vision or blindness.
Diabetic eye disease is the collective term for several eye conditions that commonly affect people with diabetes. Some of the most common forms of diabetic eye disease are glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.
Glaucoma and Diabetes
Glaucoma is a family of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting visual images to the brain. High blood sugar levels can cause tissues and blood vessels in the eyes to swell and leak fluid. Some patients with diabetes develop “neovascularization” in which blood vessels grow on the iris and obstruct the flow of fluid within the eye. Blocked fluid flow may lead to dangerous levels of inner eye pressure and cause glaucoma.
Cataracts and Diabetes
A cataract is the progressive clouding of the eye lens, which causes distorted vision. Anyone can develop cataracts, but people with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts. Diabetes also causes cataracts to progress faster.
Cataract-related vision loss is reversible through a simple outpatient procedure that replaces the deteriorated lens with a customized intraocular lens (IOL). Cataract surgery is one of the most common outpatient procedures performed today, with greater than a 95 percent success rate.
Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy
Any retinal damage that develops from diabetes is called diabetic retinopathy. This eye disease alters retinal blood vessels and causes them to leak blood or fluid within the eye, which impairs vision. Other symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include floaters, shadows and missing areas in the visual field. Many people with diabetic retinopathy do not experience any symptoms in the early stages.
Schedule a Comprehensive Eye Exam
You can prevent diabetic eye disease by managing your diabetes and visiting your eye doctor regularly for frequent eye exams. Comprehensive eye exams with dilation are essential for healthy eyes and clear vision, especially for people with diabetes.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month, so call your ophthalmologist to schedule a comprehensive eye exam today.