Diabetes and Eyes

March 29, 2017

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness in adults. Diabetes is a complex metabolic disease in which your body can’t produce insulin, doesn’t produce enough insulin, or simply can’t use it efficiently. Insulin helps to break down and deliver sugar to the cells in your body. Since all of your body’s cells need sugar, or glucose, for energy, this lack of insulin can results in many problems, including some that affect the eye.. Read below for some of the common eye complications from diabetes.

Glaucoma

People with diabetes are 40% more likely to suffer from glaucoma than those without. Glaucoma is caused by building pressure in the eye when fluid is unable to drain properly. The pressure pinches the blood vessels that carry blood to the retina and optic nerve. This can cause nerve damage, damage to blood vessels, and changes in vision.

Thankfully, medications can be used to treat glaucoma. They lower eye pressure, speed up drainage, and reduce the amount of liquid your eye makes. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to fully treat the issue.

Cataracts

Cataracts are caused when the normally clear lens of the eye becomes clouded with debris. Many people develop cataracts as they age, but diabetics are 60% more likely to develop them. Diabetics also are more likely to get cataracts at a younger age and may develop them faster.

While surgery is a treatment option, not every case will need it. Sometimes a change in glasses can improve vision or delay the need for surgery. Cataract surgery should be considered if the symptoms hinder everyday life. These can include:

  • Difficulty seeing to sew, read, drive, or watch TV
  • Difficulty with haloes or glare at night
  • Or problems performing normal activities related to home or work

It is important to see your eye doctor as other conditions can create similar symptoms and require different treatments.

Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a general term for all disorders of the retina caused by diabetes. There are two common types of retinopathy: nonproliferative and proliferative.

  • Nonproliferative- In nonproliferative retinopathy, the most common form of retinopathy, capillaries in the back of the eye become weak allowing blood and fluids to leak. Nonproliferative retinopathy can move through three stages (mild, moderate, and severe), as more and more blood vessels become effected.
  • Proliferative- In this form, the blood vessels are so damaged they close off. In response, new blood vessels start growing in the retina. These new vessels are weak and can easily bleed, blocking vision, which is a condition called vitreous hemorrhage. The new blood vessels can also cause scar tissue to grow. After the scar tissue shrinks, it can distort the retina or pull it out of place, a condition called retinal detachment.

Huge strides have been made in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy. The sooner retinopathy is diagnosed, the more likely these treatments will be successful. The best results occur when sight is still normal.

As we remind our patients, yearly eye exams are extremely important for those with diabetes. Often, these eye issues do not present symptoms until late in their progression. With regular visits, your doctors can monitor your eye health and look for changes that may be a sign of a larger problem.  

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