How Does Diabetes Affect Your Eyes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition associated with abnormally high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood.
It is the result of a body not producing or not responding to the hormone insulin. Insulin is needed to regulate our blood glucose levels and takes the sugar out of the blood and into cells where it can be converted into energy. High blood sugar levels can cause several complications, many of which affect our eyes and our vision.

Many people with diabetes are at risk of eye problems, including diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma.

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a disease of the blood vessels of the retina – the light-sensitive layers at the back of the eye which enable us to see. Diabetic retinopathy can develop in anyone who has type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. It occurs more often in people who have had diabetes for a long time or those whose diabetes is not well controlled.

When a person is diagnosed with diabetes, it isn’t possible to predict at the time whether or not they will get retinal disease. However, around a quarter of people with diabetes have some degree of diabetic retinopathy.

Cataracts

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in our eye that causes blurred vision. While cataract formation is a normal aging process that will occur in most people, diabetes can cause cataracts at an earlier age. Diabetes increases the chance of developing cataracts by about 60%. High blood sugar levels can leak sugar into the lens of the eye and cause swelling. This repeated action of sugar leakage and swelling in the lens causes it to cloud over time and become a cataract.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is an eye disease caused by increased eye pressure that damages the optic nerve and results in blurred vision and loss of peripheral vision. People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop glaucoma than people who do not have diabetes. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form. The angle refers to the point where the iris meets the cornea. Fluid must flow through this angle in order to release the pressure in the eye. Open-angle glaucoma is slowly progressive and patients with this disease may not even know they have it until damage is already done. Neovascular Glaucoma is also commonly developed in diabetic patients. This results from abnormal formation of blood vessels on the iris and disrupts the fluid drainage system.

Diagnosis and treatment

Good control of diabetes is the best way of preventing complications.

Having your eyes checked regularly by a doctor is the most effective way of detecting any damage to your eyes at an early stage when treatment may be most successful.

It is recommended that you see your eye care provider for a dilated eye exam at least once a year if you have been diagnosed with diabetes. Contact Associated Retina Consultants at 602-242-4928 or associatedretinaconsultants.com to schedule your annual exam today.

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