Diabetes and How it Affects Your Eyes
Diabetes is a condition when the body does not produce or does not respond to the hormone insulin. Insulin is needed to regulate our blood glucose levels and takes the sugar out of the blood and into cells where it can be converted into energy. High blood sugar levels can cause several complications, many of which affect our eyes and our vision.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, then it is important for you to know that diabetes is the number one cause of blindness. But with regular eye exams, your eye care provider can help you maintain good eye health and vision. You may be asking yourself, how does high blood sugar affect your vision? We are going to discuss all topics relating diabetes and your eyes below.
When blood sugar levels are high, it causes the lens in our eyes to swell. This swelling changes our prescription and causes blurred vision. If your blood sugar levels fluctuate drastically through out the day, you may notice your vision changing through out the day as well. Blurred vision is most common especially after a big meal when there is a surge of glucose in your bloodstream. If you are experiencing blurred vision, it does not mean that you need to run out and purchase new glasses right away. It does mean that you blood sugar is not under control and needs to be monitored more closely and treated appropriately. It is important for you to let your eye care provider know that you have been diagnosed with diabetes and if it is well controlled because an accurate glasses prescription can be determined only if your blood sugar is in target range.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens in our eye that causes blurred vision. While cataract formation is a normal aging change of our eye that will occur in every elderly person, diabetes can cause people to have cataracts at an earlier age. Diabetes increases the chance of developing cataracts by 60%. High blood sugar levels can leak sugar into the lens of the eye and cause swelling. This repeated action of sugar leakage and swelling in the lens causes it to cloud over time and become a cataract.
Glaucoma is an eye disease caused by increased eye pressure that damages the optic nerve and results in blurred vision and loss of peripheral vision. People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop glaucoma than people who do not have diabetes. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form. The angle refers to the point where the iris meets the cornea. Fluid must flow through this angle in order the release the pressure in the eye. Open-angle glaucoma is slowly progressive and patients with this disease may not even know they have it until damage is already done. Neovascular Glaucoma is also commonly developed in diabetic patients. This results from abnormal formation of blood vessels on the iris and disrupts the fluid drainage system.
The retina is the sensory tissue that lines the back of the eye. Images that come through the eye are focused on the retina, much like the film of a camera. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage of the blood vessels of the retina. High blood sugar levels cause the blood vessels to become weak, they swell and become leaky causing hemorrhages and inflammatory fluid called exudates.
Abnormal blood vessel growth on the retina can occur in more severe forms of diabetic retinopathy called proliferative diabetic retinopathy. These abnormal blood vessels are weak and cause leakage in the macula. The macula is the part of the retina responsible for our central vision and what allows us to see 20/20. Fluid retention in the macula causes images displayed on the retina to be blurry. Laser eye surgery is often used to treat proliferative diabetic retinopathy. This focal laser burns small holes where there are abnormal blood vessels and keeps the vessels from leaking.
The best form of treatment is keeping a tight control of sugar levels and not allowing your diabetes to spin out of control in the first place to develop diabetic retinopathy. Early diabetic retinopathy can be reversed by eating a healthy diet, exercising and taking the appropriate medication recommended by your doctor; maintaining a stable target blood glucose level. However the more severe form, proliferative diabetic retinopathy cannot be reversed. Laser treatment does not reverse any damage that has already occurred but can help prevent further damage.
It is important that people with diabetes get their eyes examined on a regular basis since eye complications are so common. It is recommended that you see your eye care provider for a dilated eye exam at least once a year if you have been diagnosed with diabetes.
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