While many people are familiar with diabetes, they may not be aware of the eye related damage it can cause. Diabetes is a disorder that disrupts the metabolic process that causes elevated blood sugar levels either due to inadequate production of insulin or because the body does not efficiently use the insulin produced (depending on the type of diabetes).
The risk of eye damage is increased when diabetes is not treated. Diabetic eye disease can come in a number of forms.
The most serious diabetic eye disease is one that can lead to damage to the blood vessels that lead to the retina. This condition is a primary cause 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 essential for proper vision. Retinal damage can cause permanent blindness. While controlling diabetes can reduce the likelihood of developing diabetic retinopathy, it does not entirely eliminate the risk and therefore it is crucial to have a yearly retinal exam.
Periodic variations in blood sugar levels, a common condition when diabetes is untreated, can have an impact on the functioning of the eye's crystalline lens. Due to the fact that glucose levels are linked to the ability of your lens to focus, this can result in blurred vision that varies with glucose levels.
Cataracts, or a clouding of the lens of the eye, can also develop in diabetics. Even though cataracts are common in people over a certain age, the likelihood of developing the condition at a younger age is higher in diabetics.
Glaucoma, which is caused by elevated interoptic fluid pressure, can cause vision loss. People with diabetes are two times more likely to develop glaucoma.
The best prevention for diabetic eye disease is control of glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, to eat properly, exercise and refrain from smoking. Since eye damage is often not noticeable until damage has occurred it is imperative to schedule regular yearly retinal exams with an eye doctor to detect any possible damage as early as possible. While it is common that vision loss that results from any of these conditions is irreparable, further vision loss can be stopped by early detection.