While the majority of the population is familiar with diabetes, relatively few 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 eye damage is increased when diabetes is not treated. Diabetic eye disease can appear in a number of forms.
The most common diabetic eye disease is one that results in destruction of the blood vessels that lead to the retina. This condition is one of the most common causes of blindness in adults and is called diabetic retinopathy.
The retina is the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye, which is an essential component for proper vision. Damage to the retina can result in irreversible blindness. While controlling diabetes reduces the chances of developing diabetic retinopathy, it does not completely eliminate the risk and therefore it is essential to have a yearly retinal exam.
Blood sugar levels that vary regularly can also affect vision. Since blood sugar levels have an impact on the ability of your lens to maintain sharp focus, this can result in blurry vision that fluctuates with glucose levels.
Cataracts, or a clouding of the lens of the eye, can also develop after a longer period of living with diabetes. While many people develop cataracts as they age, the chance of developing the condition at a younger age is higher in diabetics.
The risk of developing glaucoma in diabetics is two times that of the normal population. Glaucoma is an elevation in pressure in the optic nerve which causes damage to the optic nerve and eventually vision loss.
Having control of your diabetes is the best form of prevention for any of the eye and vision problems associated with the disease. In addition to controlling levels of glucose by means of proper nutrition and/or insulin, exercise and refraining from smoking can help. Since eye damage is often not noticeable until damage has occurred it is critical to have regular annual eye exams with an eye doctor to detect any developing damage as early as possible. Even though often any loss of sight that results from any of these conditions is irreparable, further damage can be stopped by early detection.