Having diabetes puts you at a significantly increased risk of vision problems and eye disease. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of vision loss in American adults.
The good news: The CDC says 90% of diabetes-related vision loss is preventable. The key is taking steps to protect your eyes and your vision as early as possible.
Randa Garrana, MD, and the team at Advanced Lasik want patients at their Long Beach, California, office to enjoy healthy eyes and a clear vision for life. That begins with understanding how diabetes can affect vision health and how regular eye care can help.
Our bodies need some amount of “blood sugar” or glucose in order to function properly. But just as too much table sugar can be bad for health, so can too much glucose.
Elevated glucose levels take a toll on your blood vessels, including the tiny blood vessels in your eyes. This damage can start during prediabetes before you’re actually diagnosed with diabetes, but when glucose levels are still higher than normal.
Elevated glucose causes inflammation and other changes that weaken these tiny blood vessels, causing swelling and fluid leakage that can damage your eye and impair your vision. Sometimes, new weaker vessels grow, blocking vision, leading to scarring, and increasing pressure inside your eye.
Without treatment, uncontrolled glucose levels can lead to what’s known as diabetic eye disease, a group of four eye problems that tend to be much more common among diabetics.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that damages the ocular nerve located at the back of the eye. This nerve sends “vision signals” from your eye to your brain, which interprets those signals as the objects you see.
Cataracts are a clouding of your eye’s natural lenses. People with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts, possibly because higher glucose levels allow deposits to build up in the lenses.
DRE is the most common cause of vision loss in diabetics, occurring when elevated glucose damages the eyes’ blood vessels, resulting in leakage of blood and fluids into the eye. In more advanced stages of DRE, weaker vessels grow in their place, interfering with normal vision.
The macula is the central part of your retina that lets you see things straight in front of you. As DRE progresses, swelling may damage this part of the retina, resulting in vision loss in your central vision.
Diabetic eye disease can be managed, as long as it’s diagnosed early. The problem is, these eye problems typically cause no symptoms in their very early stages, which means you could have diabetic eye disease and not even know it.
Glaucoma, for instance, usually causes absolutely no symptoms until permanent vision loss occurs, earning it a reputation as “the silent thief of sight.” By that time, there’s no way to reverse vision loss, and the disease may be so far advanced, it can be a lot harder to manage.
Having regular eye exams is important for everyone, but it’s especially important for people with diabetes. Routine comprehensive exams are the key to early diagnosis and early treatment. Plus, if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetic eye disease, having regular exams ensures your treatment stays on track as your needs evolve over time.
It’s easy to take your eyesight for granted — until something happens to damage your eyes or your vision. With diabetes, your risk of eye disease is increased — and that means making time for eye exams is more important than ever.
If you’re due for an eye exam or if you’d like to learn more about managing diabetic eye disease, our team can help. Call the practice or use our online booking tool to schedule an appointment today.