While most people have heard of diabetes, not as many people are aware of the eye-related complications. The increased levels of glucose that are the essence of the disease are a risk to your eyes in various ways.
The threat of damage to your eyes is increased when diabetes is not controlled. Diabetic eye disease can actualize in a number of forms.
Diabetic retinopathy refers to a leading cause of blindness in adults. This condition results when elevated blood sugar levels cause the blood vessels in the retina to suffer blockages. As a result, these small blood vessels often leak causing irreparable damage to the retina. In many instances a process called neovascularization takes place where new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina, which may also leak, causing additional damage.
The retina is the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye, which is essential for proper vision. Retinal damage can cause permanent vision loss. While controlling diabetes can reduce the chances of developing diabetic retinopathy, it does not totally eliminate the risk and therefore it is essential to have an annual retinal exam.
Daily variations in glucose levels, which are common when diabetes is untreated, can have an impact on the functioning of the lens of the eye. Because blood sugar levels have an impact on the ability of your lens to maintain sharp focus, this can result in blurred vision that varies with blood sugar levels.
Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes clouded and can also develop in diabetics. While cataracts are common in people over a certain age, the risk of having the condition at a younger age is higher in diabetics.
Glaucoma, which is caused by increased interoptic fluid pressure, can cause vision loss. Diabetics are two times more likely to develop glaucoma.
Having your diabetes under control is the best form of prevention for any of the diabetic eye diseases. As well as controlling blood sugar levels by means of proper nutrition 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 critical to schedule regular annual checkups with an optometrist to find any possible problems as early as possible. While in many cases vision loss caused by any of these conditions cannot be restored, early detection and treatment can often prevent additional vision loss.