People with diabetes are at a high risk for developing diabetic eye diseases. High blood sugar levels are the root of the problem, causing damage to the blood vessels and the lens of the eye. Tight control of blood sugar levels can reduce the chances of vision loss. The most common eye problems caused by diabetes are diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma.
Nearly half of diabetics develop diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of blindness in the United States.
High blood sugar damages the blood vessels resulting in poor circulation and lack of delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the eyes. Damage to the walls of the blood vessels in the retina can cause them to balloon or leak fluid and blood, blocking the retina and therefore blocking vision. Fluid can accumulate in the macula, the center of the retina, and cause swelling called macular edema, blurring and distorting vision.
Poor circulation, which decreases oxygen to the retina, can stimulate growth of new blood vessels. These blood vessels are weak and fragile and will bleed inside the eye, can cause scaring inside the eye and retinal detachments. All of which can cause permanent vision loss. If these new blood vessels begin to grow on the iris they can cause neovascular glaucoma.
Regular eye exams, with dilation, are really the only way to protect the eyes from this condition. There are no early warning signs such as blurred vision, redness, or pain. When caught early, retinopathy can be treated to prevent further permanent damage. Laser treatments can stop the leaking and shrink the abnormal vessels.
People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop cataracts. Large, rapid shifts in blood sugar levels allow sugar to diffuse into the lens of the eye, causing it to swell and blurring vision. Over time the repeated swelling will damage the lens, making the lens permanently cloudy, causing a cataract.
People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop glaucoma. Glaucoma involves high pressure inside of the eye which eventually causes damage to the optic nerve. High blood sugar can damage the cells of a part of the eye called the trabecular meshwork. The trabecular meshwork allows fluid to flow out of the eye. Damage to these cells can prevent the fluid from flowing out, causing pressure to build inside the eye. Left untreated, this pressure causes damage to the optic nerve resulting in permanent vision loss or blindness. Medications and surgery are used to treat glaucoma.
Controlling blood sugar and blood pressure can prevent the damage from occurring in the first place, but even most people who maintain stable blood sugar levels will suffer some damage after having diabetes for fifteen years or more.
Regular eye exams are the key to preserving vision, if you have diabetes. Most eye problems associated with the disease do not begin to reveal themselves until extensive damage has already occurred, but an exam with dilation can detect the problem early and treatment can stop the damage in its tracks.
If you have diabetes talk to your eye doctor about regular eye exams and a prevention program today. The Eye Care Center of Northern Colorado are highly experienced in diabetic eye laser treatment, and the Berg.Feinfeld Vision Correction Center of Los Angeles, California has many experienced ophthalmologists (eye surgeons) who are able to answer your vision correction questions.