Even though most people have heard of diabetes, not as many people are aware of the effect it can have on your eyes. The increased levels of blood sugar associated with diabetes can harm your eyes in various ways.
The threat of vision loss is increased when diabetes is not controlled. Diabetic eye disease can come in a number of forms.
The most common diabetic eye disease is one that results in destruction of the blood vessels that lead to the retina. This is called diabetic retinopathy and is one of the most common causes of blindness in adults.
The retina is the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye, which is an essential component for proper vision. Damage to the retina can cause permanent blindness. While controlling diabetes reduces the likelihood of developing diabetic retinopathy, it does not totally eliminate the risk and this is why it is strongly recommended to have an annual retinal exam.
Periodic fluctuations in glucose levels, largely present in cases where diabetes is untreated, can affect the crystalline lens of the eye. Due to the fact that glucose levels have an impact on your lens’s ability to focus, this can result in blurry vision that changes with glucose levels.
Diabetics are at greater risk 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 at an earlier age in diabetics.
A person with diabetes is two times more at risk of developing glaucoma, an increase in pressure in the optic nerve which causes optic nerve damage and ultimately blindness.
The best prevention for diabetic eye disease is control of blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, to eat properly, exercise and refrain from smoking. Since eye damage is often not noticeable until damage has occurred it is critical to have regular annual retinal exams with an eye doctor to detect any possible problems as early as possible. While often vision loss that results from diabetic eye disease in any form is permanent, further damage can be stopped by early diagnosis.