Diabetes affects millions of Americans and happens when your body fails to turn carbohydrates into energy and doesn't respond to or create insulin. Insulin is the hormone that delivers glucose (blood sugar) to the cells in your body. Too much glucose can damage blood vessels and nerves throughout your body, including those in your retina. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop diabetic eye disease, cataracts, and glaucoma.
Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for eye conditions caused by high blood sugar, which is why November is dubbed Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month. Our eye doctors want you and your family to understand that annual eye exams are crucial in preventing vision loss for people with diabetes.
What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is the primary eye disease affecting this patient population. Long-term high glucose levels weaken the retinal blood vessels at the back of the eye. These fragile blood vessels swell, leak, or bleed, causing blurry vision. Advanced or proliferative diabetic retinopathy causes new blood vessels to form that are abnormal and more prone to leaking and bleeding. Diabetic macular edema often accompanies diabetic retinopathy because the swollen blood vessels affect the macula (center of the retina), causing swelling and distorted or blurry vision.
Anyone with diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy, including women with gestational diabetes during pregnancy. High blood pressure or high cholesterol also increases the likelihood of diabetic retinopathy. Smokers and people of African, Hispanic, or Native American descent are more at risk.
Diabetes Leads to Glaucoma and Early Cataracts
People with diabetes are more likely to have neovascular glaucoma as they age because abnormal blood vessels can grow on the iris (colored portion of the eye) and increase intraocular eye pressure (IOP). High IOP is a hallmark of glaucoma, nicknamed the "silent thief of sight" because vision loss occurs gradually, starting with your side or peripheral vision. While cataracts will affect most people as they age, people with diabetes tend to have cataracts earlier in life with more progressive symptoms.
Diabetes may damage your vision before you notice the changes. Schedule an eye exam as soon as possible if you notice:
- Spots in your vision.
- Blurry vision.
- Light flashes.
- Distorted images.
- Difficulty reading or doing detailed tasks.
- Blind spots.
How to Prevent Diabetes from Damaging Your Eyes
Yearly dilated eye exams are the best way to ensure eye problems caused by diabetes are caught early. You can reduce your risk by keeping your glucose levels within the target range provided by your doctor and maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol. Don't smoke and stay active throughout your life. Physical activity not only helps manage diabetes but also protects your eye health.
Schedule your eye exam at Invision Eye Care Specialists in Lakewood, New Jersey, by calling (732) 210-0140.