Diabetic Eye Disease

Did You Know?

Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults in the U.S. -National Institutes of Health

Only 39 percent of Americans identify vision problems as a side effect of diabetes. -Healthy Sight Survey 2008

More than 90 percent of severe vision loss and blindness caused by diabetes can be prevented with proper eye care. -World Health Organization

Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that can occur as a result of diabetes. Without diagnosis and treatment, diabetic eye disease can cause severe vision loss or even blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and is a leading cause of blindness in persons with diabetes.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a systemic disease that altars the body’s ability to use and store sugars. Over time, uncontrolled high blood sugars can cause complications with the body’s circulatory system. This results in decreased blood flow to tissues throughout the body and leads to diabetic retinopathy in the eyes. Diabetic retinopathy can have serious sight threatening consequences that range from blurred vision to blindness.

How Does Diabetes Cause Blurry Vision?

Diabetes and the subsequent high blood sugars can cause blurry vision in several ways:

  • One way is due to swelling of the intraocular lens and altering the curvature of the lens in your eye. This swelling causes fluctuating and transitory blurry vision and can be reversed once the blood sugars levels are under tighter control.
  • Another cause of blurry vision and even blindness from diabetes is from diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when blood vessels in the eye become leaky resulting in blood and other fluids to flow into the retinal tissue. This bleeding and fluid accumulation typically occurs in both eyes and in equal severity. As the disease becomes more advanced retinal bleeding is more prevalent, blood can be found in the vitreous, areas of retinal ischemia occur due to lack of oxygen, and ultimately new blood vessel formation will take place. These new blood vessels only cause further complications however, as they are very leaky and only lead to more bleeding. Treatment options for diabetic retinopathy include monitoring the disease with tight control of blood sugars in early stages. In later stages laser surgery, intraocular injection, and vitrectomy are all treatment options.
  • What Can I Do?

    It is important to have a dilated eye exam once a year because early detection and treatment can decrease the potential for vision loss from diabetes in the future.

    The longer you have had diabetes and the higher your blood sugars are, the more likely you are to display signs of diabetic retinopathy and to have ocular complications. To decrease your chances of suffering visual complications from diabetes it is important to watch your diet, take your prescribed medications, and exercise frequently.

    Source: American Optometric Association and The Vision Council

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