Diabetes and your eyes

February 10th, 2016 by Carolina Eye Associates

Do you or a loved one have diabetes? If so, it’s important to get your eye doctor involved in treatments and preventative care right away. Most with diabetes will only experience minor issues with their eyesight; some diabetic eye diseases can cause blindness, so it’s important to educate yourself on possible conditions.

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes cause an abnormal increase in blood sugar levels. This imbalance can cause strain on the body—including the eyes. A number of eye conditions fall under the category of “diabetic eye disease.”  These include:

Diabetic retinopathy–This condition is the most serious complication of diabetes and is a leading cause of blindness in the U.S. It is a general term for all disorders of the retina caused by diabetes and involves leaking or blockage of the network of blood vessels supplying the retina. Forty percent of people with type 1 diabetes and 20 percent with type 2 diabetes will develop some sort of diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic maculopathy/macular edema–Light entering your eye is focused onto one tiny area of your central retina the size of a pinhead called the macula and is vital to seeing fine detail. Diabetic maculopathy, a form of retinopathy, means your macula is affected by diabetes. If this happens, it may be difficult to read print or recognize faces. If the macula swells with fluid, it is called a macula edema and can mean severe vision loss.

Glaucoma–The increased blood sugar levels caused by diabetes can lead to increased pressure in the eye and damaged nerves. This condition is called glaucoma and people with diabetes are 40 percent more likely to develop this disorder.

Cataracts–Diabetes can play a role in speeding up the formation of cataracts. High blood sugar can cause excess sugar to accumulate in the lens affecting the water content, thereby stretching the lens. When the blood sugars go down, the lens returns to its normal shape. These small changes in the lens tissue structure over time can cause the lens to prematurely discolor. People with diabetes are 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts and many develop the condition at a younger age with faster progression than those without the disease.

Catching diabetic eye disease early can save your vision. Many diabetic eye diseases, such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, have no symptoms in their earliest stages. Early detection and treatment can often reduce your risk of impaired vision or permanent vision loss.

For more information on diabetic eye disease call Carolina Eye Associates at (910) 295-2100 or toll-free at (800) 733-5357.

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