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Diabetes can have an impact on your sight that is serious, though treatable. Many are aware that diabetes can actually cause blindness, but it is important to note that most people with diabetes suffer from nothing more than minor eye problems. Patients with diabet es should take extra care to see the eye doctor regularly to avoid serious problems or undiagnosed eye disorders.
Regular checkups and thorough eye exams will catch early signs of any eye disorder and allow proper treatments. Most eye problems do not reach a serious level unless they go undiagnosed for too long. As your optometrists in Columbia, we encourage patients to see the eye doctor annually and even up to twice a year for those with diabetes.
Diabetic Eye Problems
Diabetic eye disease covers several problems, including the most common diabetic eye disease known as diabetic retinopathy. All eye problems resulting from diabetes can cause vision loss or blindness. These diseases include:
A general term used for all diabetic eye disorders that affect the retina, diabetic retinopathy has four stages, including mild, moderate and severe nonproliferative retinopathy and proliferative retinopathy.
The most common form of retinopathy is nonproliferative retinopathy. This occurs when capillaries in the back of the eye swell and block the blood vessels.
A more serious form of retinopathy is proliferative retinopathy. This can progress over several years to a point where the blood vessels are damaged and close off. New blood vessels attempt to grow in the retina, but are weak and leak blood, causing vitreous hemorrhage. These new blood vessels can also cause scar tissue to grow and shrinks, distorting the retina or causing retinal detachment.
Diabetics are 60% more likely to develop cataracts and also do so at a younger age than adults who do not have diabetes. This condition causes clouding in the eye lens, blocking light. Those with mild cataracts might benefit from sunglasses and glare-controlled lenses. Cataracts can also greatly affect vision and result in the need for a new lens of the eye, which may not be an option for a patient with diabetes whose retinopathy may worsen.
Patients with diabetes are 40% more likely to develop glaucoma and the risks increase with patient age and how long they have had diabetes. With this condition, increased fluid pressure leads to optic nerve damage and loss of vision. There are treatments to reduce pressure in the eye (medication or surgery) to stop the gradual damage that would otherwise be caused by glaucoma.
Who is at Risk?
All patients with diabetes are at risk for eye problems and should get checked at least once a year. The longer a patient has had a diabetic condition, the more likely they are to be diagnosed with some kind of eye disorder. Women who suffer from gestational diabetes during pregnancy are also at risk for eye problems and should contact their eye doctor as soon as they are diagnosed to undergo a dilated eye exam.