Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetic Eye Disease – Ocular Conditions Linked to Diabetes
The term “diabetic eye disease” refers typically to diabetic retinopathy, which is the most common eye condition linked to diabetes. However, the term can also include multiple other conditions under its umbrella, including diabetic macular edema, glaucoma, and cataracts. Any of these conditions can cause severe vision loss or even blindness.
Because diabetic eye disease is such a grave risk, patients with diabetes are encouraged to be especially vigilant about their ocular health. Regular eye exams, in particular, are essential.
Diabetes and Its Effects on Your Eyes
Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness for people between the ages of 20 and 74. Diabetic retinopathy, meanwhile, is the number one cause of blindness in adults in the United States. Needless to say, if you have diabetes, it’s important to know how and why the disease affects the health of your eyes.
The simplest and least vision threatening way in which diabetes affects the eyes is with blurry vision.
Diabetes, of course, is a disease that results in high blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar is high, the lenses in your eyes will sometimes swell, leading to blurred vision. This issue isn’t usually permanent and can be rectified by returning the body’s blood sugar levels to a reasonable target range. Still, if you are dealing with blurry vision, you should consult your eye doctor to see 1) what you can do to get your vision back to normal, and 2) if the issue might be the sign of a more significant problem.
The other ocular conditions linked to diabetes are considerably more serious and alarming. Below, we have outlined each of these conditions briefly:
- Diabetic retinopathy: This condition occurs when high blood sugar levels affect the blood vessels in the retina. Usually, the affected blood vessels will start to swell. In some cases, they might begin to leak. In other cases, the blood vessels might grow uncontrollably and obscure the surface of the retina. Since the retina is responsible for receiving light and turning it into images, it is essential for vision. The blood vessel problems caused by retinopathy, therefore, can easily lead to blindness. Patients who have had diabetes for longer are at higher risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, but they can protect the retina by keeping their blood sugar levels under control.
- Diabetic macular edema: Diabetic macular edema (DME) is a consequence of diabetic retinopathy. It cannot occur in patients who have not developed diabetic retinopathy. There are two types of DME: focal DME, which has to do with abnormal blood vessels in the eye, and diffuse DME, which has to do with swelling capillaries. These issues result in fluid accumulating in the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for the finer details of human vision. Patients with DME will experience blurry vision, double vision, floaters, and ultimately blindnessif the condition isn’t treated. In most cases, eye doctors will treat DME with laser procedures or eye injections.
- Cataracts: Cataracts when the eye’s lens becomes cloudy and opacified. They cloud your vision and cause problems such as blurry eyesight and glare. Unlike diabetic retinopathy and DME, cataracts can affect anyone—but they tend to be more common in patients with diabetes. Treatment involves removing the damaged lens and replacing it with a natural one.
- Glaucoma: Glaucoma occurs when the eye cannot drain fluid properly. Built up fluid in the eye puts pressure on the optic nerve, which can result in everything from blurred vision to headaches and eye pain. If left untreated, the pressure will eventually damage the optic nerve to such an extent that vision may be lost permanently. Medications can keep glaucoma in check by speeding up the drainage and reducing pressure in the eye. Glaucoma is not exclusive to diabetic patients but can be more common because of diabetic retinopathy affecting the drainage system of the eye.
At Weston Contact Lens Institute and Miami Contact Lens Institute, we work with patients who have diabetes to help them maintain robust eye health. Whether you need an eye exam, a diagnosis for a condition, or treatment for a problem such as DME or glaucoma, we can assist. Call us today to schedule your appointment.