Diabetic eye disease refers to several eye problems affecting people with diabetes. These diseases include diabetic macular edema, diabetic neuropathy, glaucoma, and cataracts. Diabetes is a chronic health problem that affects the body’s ability to produce or use insulin as it should regulate blood sugar. With diabetes, there is too much sugar in the bloodstream, which can eventually cause damage to various body parts, including the eyes. If you have diabetes, Swati Kumar OD, FAAO may recommend a dilated eye exam annually, even before you have signs of vision loss. Managing your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol can also help keep your eyes healthy.
How diabetes affects your eyes
Diabetes affects the health of your eyes when the blood glucose or sugar is beyond the normal range.
High blood sugar is less likely to cause vision loss in the short term, but some people experience blurred vision for a few days or weeks when changing their medicines or diabetes care plan. When you have excess glucose in your blood, fluid levels in your eye tissues change, resulting in swelling, which causes blurred vision. Usually, this type of blurry vision is short-lived and goes away when glucose levels return to normal.
In the long run, high blood sugar can damage the tiny blood vessels in the back of your eyes. The damage can begin during prediabetes when your blood sugar level is high but not high enough for you to be diagnosed with prediabetes. Damaged blood vessels often leak fluid, causing swelling. New, weak blood vessels can also develop. These blood vessels can bleed into the middle part of your eye and may cause scarring and dangerously high pressure inside your eyes.
Below are the four diseases that can threaten your eyesight.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when damaged blood vessels harm the retina, the inner lining at the back of each eye. In early diabetic retinopathy or non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels can weaken, bulge, and leak into the retina. If the disease worsens, some blood vessels close off, causing new blood vessels to grow or proliferate on the retina surface. These new, abnormal blood vessels often cause serious vision problems.
Diabetic macular edema
The macular is the part of your retina you need for driving, reading, and seeing faces. Diabetes can cause swelling of the macular, and over time, this disease can destroy the sharp vision in this part of the eye, causing partial vision loss or blindness. Often this disease develops in people who have other signs of diabetic retinopathy.
Your eyes have lenses; these are clear structures that help provide sharp vision. But as you age, the lenses become cloudy, affecting your eyesight. Your risk of developing cataracts earlier is higher if you have diabetes. Specialists think that high glucose levels cause deposits to build up in the eye lenses.
Glaucoma refers to a group of eye diseases that can damage the optic nerve, leading to irreversible vision loss. The risk of glaucoma is two times higher in people with diabetes than in other individuals.
If you are at risk of diabetic eye disease, visit your specialist at Alamo Eye Care for a diabetic eye exam to preserve your vision.