Last Updated on June 20, 2023 by Aaron Barriga
Do you have diabetes? If yes, then you are at a risk of developing serious eye diseases. High blood sugar can lead to problems like blurry vision, cataracts, glaucoma, and retinopathy. In fact, diabetes is the primary cause of blindness in adults between 20-74 years. Let us look at some eye diseases that result from diabetes.
4 Eye Conditions Related to Diabetes
1) Diabetic Retinopathy (DR)
One of the most serious eye conditions, diabetic retinopathy occurs when the tiny blood vessels present at the back of the eye become blocked and start leaking.
Types of DR
a) Background Diabetic Retinopathy
This doesn’t affect the eyesight but the eyes need to be monitored to ensure that the retinopathy doesn’t worsen.
b) Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
If background diabetic retinopathy gets worse, then many retinal blood vessels get blocked or damaged. If these changes occur over a large area of the retina, then the blood vessels to the retina will be reduced, which the body tries to fix by growing new blood vessels on the retinal surface or into the vitreous gel. However, these new vessels are generally weak and bleed very easily, thus affecting your vision
c) Diabetic Maculopathy
This occurs when the macula is affected by retinopathy. It affects the central vision, which is required to see fine details and color, and makes it blurry.
Causes of DR
The primary cause of this eye disease is chronically high blood sugar from diabetes as it directly damages the tiny blood vessels in the retina.
The early stages usually don’t have any symptoms, which is why the disease progresses unnoticed until it starts affecting your vision.
If the abnormal retina blood cells start bleeding, then it can cause an appearance of ‘floating spots’ in the eye. These spots may be clear on their own but if there is no proper treatment, the bleeding will recur and increase the risk of permanent vision loss.
If your eye condition is detected in the early stages, then you will be given a laser treatment. It helps in preventing bleeding or growth of new blood vessels.
You can reduce the risk of DR by:
- Controlling the blood glucose levels
- Controlling the cholesterol levels
- Controlling the blood pressure
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Quitting smoking
Get a regular retinal screening as it can help in detecting diabetic retinopathy at an early stage and early treatment will stop you from losing sight. You must have the retinal screenings more often if you’re pregnant and have gestational diabetes. The screenings must be done during your pregnancy and after your baby is born.
2) Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)
This eye disease causes an accumulation of fluid in the macula, which is a part of the retina that controls our detailed vision abilities, due to the leaking of blood vessels. You must have diabetic retinopathy in order to have DME. It damages the blood vessels and results in vision impairment. If left untreated, these blood vessels begin to build up pressure in the eye and leak fluid, causing DME.
Causes of DME
High blood sugar is one of the main causes of DME. It can make the blood vessels leak or grow uncontrollably in your retina. DME occurs when the fluids leak into your retina. This leaking will cause the retina to swell, thus hampering the work of your macula.
It usually doesn’t have symptoms, however, you may experience the following:
- Blurry images that are directly in front of you
- Washed out colors
This occurs when there is clouding or fogging in the otherwise clear lens of the eye. Since the lens allows you to focus and see images clearly, the cataract will cause blurry, cloudy or glazed vision. Cataract can strike anyone but those with diabetes can get cataract at an earlier age than others and the condition will progress more rapidly in diabetic people.
You can treat cataract through a surgery where the cloudy lens is removed or cleaned out and replaced by a clear man-made lens.
Glaucoma damages the eye’s optic nerve. It occurs when fluid builds up in the front part of the eye. This extra fluid builds pressure in the eye and damages the optic nerve and blood vessels, thus affecting the vision.
It does not cause any symptoms until it starts affecting the eyesight and you have major vision loss. However, in the early stages, you can experience headaches, blurred vision, eye aches, watery eyes and halos around a light.
The treatment of glaucoma includes medications that can treat open-angle glaucoma. They lower eye pressure, reduce the amount of liquid the eye produces and speeds up the drainage.
Preventive Steps to Take
- If you have type 1 diabetes, you should have a dilated eye exam by an ophthalmologist or optometrist within three to five years after diagnosis.
- Those with type 2 diabetes should have a dilated eye exam by an ophthalmologist or optometrist shortly after diagnosis.
- Annual eye exams are a must for people suffering from both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. You can make the check-ups more frequent if necessary.
- Women with a history of diabetes considering pregnancy should have an eye exam before and during pregnancy. This does not pertain to women with gestational diabetes.
Make an appointment today with an eye doctor at Insight Vision Center to rule out any eye diseases that may be caused due to diabetes.
Aaron Barriga is the online marketing manager for Insight Vision Center. With a knack for understanding medical procedures, and an interest in eye and vision health, Aaron loves to share what he knows and what he learns. He blogs to inform readers about the latest eye care technology and other topics related to eye care, especially LASIK.