While the majority of the population is familiar with diabetes, fewer understand the eye-related complications. The raised levels of glucose associated with diabetes can cause damage to your eyes in a number of ways.
The risk of eye damage is increased when diabetes is not treated. Diabetic eye disease can come in a few different ways.
Diabetic retinopathy refers to a leading cause of vision loss in adults. This condition is caused by blocked blood vessels in the retina due to the elevated glucose levels. The blockages lead to blood vessel leakages which can cause irreparable damage to the retina. Often new blood vessels grow on the retina and also leak resulting in further damage.
Located at the back of the eye, the retina is essential for proper vision. Damage to the retina can result in irreversible blindness. While controlling diabetes can reduce the chances of developing diabetic retinopathy, it does not eliminate the risk and this is why it is of utmost importance to have a yearly retinal exam.
Glucose levels that vary periodically can also impact eyesight. Since glucose levels are associated with the ability of your lens to focus, this can result in blurred vision that fluctuates with glucose levels.
People with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts, a condition in which the lens of the eye becomes clouded, which impacts vision. Cataracts are a common condition that comes with aging, but develops earlier in people with diabetes.
The risk of developing glaucoma in diabetics is twice that of the rest of the population. Glaucoma is an increase in pressure in the optic nerve which causes damage to the optic nerve and eventually blindness.
Controlling your diabetes is the best form of prevention for any of the eye and vision problems associated with the disease. In addition to maintaining proper levels of blood sugar by means of diet and/or insulin, it's important to exercise and refrain from smoking. Since eye damage is often not noticeable until damage has occurred it is imperative to have yearly checkups with an eye doctor to identify any problems as early as possible. Even though often any loss of sight caused by diabetic eye disease in any form is permanent, early detection and treatment can often stop continuing damage and disease progression.