How Does Diabetes Affect Your Eyes?

Diabetes can affect your health in many ways, including your eye health. In fact, diabetes is a leading cause of blindness in adults. More than 100 million people in the United States have diabetes or prediabetes. If you are one of the millions of people with diabetes, you are at an increased risk for vision loss and blindness. 

At the Witlin Center for Advanced Eyecare, we want you to know that the key to preventing vision loss — whether you have diabetes or not — is early detection. Many eye diseases can only be detected during a comprehensive eye exam, which is why it’s crucial to see your eye doctor regularly if you have diabetes. 

Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye conditions related to diabetes. Managing your diabetes by taking your medication and watching your blood sugar levels can help reduce your risk for eye disease. Diabetic eye disease includes:

Diabetic retinopathy

When you’re not managing your diabetes well and your blood sugar stays high for a period of time, it can damage the blood vessels in your retina. The retina is located in the back of your eye, and its role is to transmit light to your brain where that light is converted into images. 

Damaged blood vessels can swell and leak, which may lead to blurry vision. Over time, these damaged blood vessels become sealed, and new abnormal blood vessels develop. If left untreated, these damaged blood vessels can severely impact your vision.

Glaucoma

The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop glaucoma. Glaucoma, too, is a group of eye diseases. With glaucoma, pressure builds up in your eye due to excess fluid. This pressure, which is called intraocular pressure (IOP), can damage the optic nerve and retina, leading to vision impairment and blindness.

People with diabetes are 40% more likely to develop glaucoma as people without diabetes. 

Cataracts

High blood sugar levels can also lead to cataracts. Cataracts are a common eye condition for older adults. But if you have diabetes, you are 60% more likely to develop cataracts and also develop them at a younger age than people without diabetes. 

Cataracts are clumps of protein that cloud your eye lens. They usually develop slowly, not affecting your vision in the early stages. Cataracts in people with diabetes tend to develop more quickly than in people without diabetes. As cataracts grow larger, more of your vision is affected. 

The good news is that we can treat and manage most diabetic eye complications if we detect them early. The best way to ensure early detection and effective treatment is to see your eye doctor at least once a year. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetic eye disease, you may need to see us more frequently. 

For more information on how diabetes can affect your vision and eye health, call one of our three Witlin Center for Advanced Eyecare locations.

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