Diabetes is a serious health condition and can cause diabetic eye disease. There are various types of diabetic eye disease and over time these eye diseases can lead to poor vision or even blindness. Patients with type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic eye disease, yet most of them do not get annual eye exams. One study found that more than half of diabetes patients over 40 do not have yearly exams. However, in 95% of cases, vision loss can be prevented with early detection of these diseases.
Common eye problems that can result from diabetes include diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs as a result of damage to blood vessels in the retina due to high blood sugar levels. Blood vessels in the eye may swell and leak or close completely, or damaged, fragile blood vessels may grow in the retina and bleed or cause scar tissue.
Diabetic macular edema occurs when blood vessels in the retina leak. This leaking causes swelling in the macula, which may make objects appear blurry or colors appear faded.
Cataracts can cause clouding of the lens when proteins in the eye start to break down, a process that may be sped up by high blood sugar. Cloudy lenses can prevent light from focusing in the retina, which may result in blurry vision, seeing double, light sensitivity, inability to see in dim lighting, or seeing faded colors.
Healthy eyes maintain eye pressure by circulating a clear liquid called aqueous humor. Excess fluid drains from the eye through the drainage angle. Glaucoma results when a buildup of this fluid exerts pressure on the optic nerve and damages its nerve fibers, producing blind spots in a patient’s vision.
An important step in preventing vision loss you can take is early detection. Scheduling a dilated eye exam at least once a year can allow your ophthalmologist to look for signs of damage to your retina and optic nerve. Patients may not notice symptoms for years after an eye disease begins to develop. Many eye diseases are initially painless and cause little to no vision changes.
You can also prevent vision loss and keep eye disease at bay by managing your overall health.
Knowing the signs of diabetic eye disease can allow you to seek treatment and prevent further damage.
Common symptoms include:
There are many options for patients who have been diagnosed with diabetic eye diseases.
A few treatment options include:
With the risks diabetes brings, the ophthalmologists at the Marietta Eye Clinic strongly encourage you to ensure you see an eye doctor (an optometrist or an ophthalmologist) to determine the frequency you need to see your eye care provider and to discuss any treatment options you need to consider. Preventative care and early intervention can help you keep the best vision possible for the longest time possible. Take action today to care for your eyes if you have diabetes.
Known as Dhanu among his family and friends, Annal Dhananjayan Meleth was born in Kerala, India, but he admits with a chuckle it is difficult to answer the question of where he is from. This world traveler has lived in 26 different places. But most of his life was spent in India, England, Canada, and now the U.S. Dr. Meleth’s education and medical training have taken him on a meandering journey reaching from Québec, Canada, to Alabama, Washington, D.C., Texas, Australia, and now Atlanta, where his family resides. He spends some time every year teaching courses about medical and surgical management of diabetic retinopathy and provides charitable care for patients with advanced diabetic complications in various parts of the world. Read his full bio here.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. It describes itself as a “global community of 32,000 medical doctors who protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public.” Its website is a great resource to learn more about how to care for your eyes.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) describes itself as the leading authority on quality care and an advocate for our nation’s health, representing more than 44,000 doctors of optometry (O.D.), optometric professionals, and optometry students.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
What is Macular Edema?
What are Cataracts?
What is Glaucoma?
Cardiovascular Health and its Connection to Eye Disease
Benefits of Controlling Diabetes for Eye Health
Dilation in Eye Exams
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