Did you know a little over 10% of the U.S. population has diabetes? That's around 37 million American adults who live with this disease. Because it's so common, most people understand the basics of diabetes: it's a chronic condition that prevents the body from properly regulating blood sugar. What you may not know, however, is how diabetes can affect the eyes.
In fact, according to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is the leading cause of vision loss(opens in a new tab) in people 18 to 64 years old.
There are a number of eye problems that people with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing. These issues fall under the 'diabetic eye disease' umbrella, which might sound like just one condition, but actually describes any disorder of the eyes that is caused by diabetes.
In this month's blog post, we'll explore four common eye conditions that fall into this category, as well as how the Everett & Hurite team can help manage each. Keep reading to learn more!
1. Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common of the diabetes-related eye diseases, and it affects over one-third(opens in a new tab) of people with diabetes. This condition occurs as, over time, high blood sugar levels damage the tiny blood vessels in the retina. The retina is a layer of tissue in the back of the eye that helps to convert light into signals that are sent to the brain.
When these small blood vessels become damaged, they can leak blood and fluid into the retina or create abnormal new blood vessels on the surface of the retina. In turn, this can create patchy or blurry vision as the retina struggles to function properly. Eventually, these vision issues can lead to blindness.
It's important to understand that, unfortunately, this condition is not curable. However, with the help of an experienced ophthalmologist, further vision loss can be prevented. In fact, there are a number of treatment options available at Everett & Hurite, from anti-VEGF injections to laser surgery.
2. Diabetic Macular Edema
Another diabetic eye disease is diabetic macular edema (DME). This disorder is found in people who also have diabetic retinopathy, as it is also caused by weakened blood vessels in the eye leaking fluid.
Where it differs, however, is where this fluid accumulates. With DME, it collects in the macula, which is a part of the retina responsible for central vision. As more fluid builds up in this area, it can create swelling and blurriness in your central vision.
Luckily, because DME is caused by the same set of circumstances as diabetic retinopathy, the treatments are the same, as well. Your eye doctor will work with you to determine the best course of action, but treatment will likely involve anti-VEGF injections and/or laser surgery.
Unlike the above diabetic eye diseases, cataracts aren't limited to people with diabetes, though having diabetes does present a higher risk. Typically, the development of cataracts is a natural part of getting older. As the lenses of our eyes age, they become less flexible, less transparent, and thicker, causing cloudy vision, blurred vision, double vision, difficulty seeing well at night, and other symptoms.
If you have diabetes, these changes can occur at a much earlier age. Over time, high blood sugar levels can cause structural changes in the eye's lens, which in turn accelerates the development of a cataract. Chronic high blood pressure (hypertension), which is common in those with diabetes, can also raise a person's risk of developing cataracts at a younger age.
Fortunately, the treatment for cataracts is much simpler than for diabetic retinopathy and DME. In most cases, cataracts can be removed with a brief operation that replaces the cloudy lens with an artificial one. Over a million cataract surgeries are performed each year, and the vast majority of patients experience substantially improved vision after their procedure.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases characterized by damage to the optic nerve, which carries visual information from the eye to the brain. Like cataracts, it's not limited to those with diabetes, but having diabetes does increase your risk.
The most common kind of glaucoma is called open-angle glaucoma. It's caused by fluid building up in the eye and applying pressure to the optic nerve. Typically, the eye is able to drain excess fluid away, but in some cases, the drainage system fails to function properly, leading to increased pressure that gradually damages the nerve.
However, a person with diabetes has a higher risk of developing neovascular glaucoma than someone who does not have diabetes. Neovascular glaucoma is also related to diabetic retinopathy, as it is caused by new abnormal blood vessels blocking the eye's drainage system. This in turn increases eye pressure and damages the optic nerve.
The main treatment for glaucoma is laser surgery, which is effective, non-invasive, and painless. This procedure works by creating tiny holes in the eye's drainage canals, allowing the excess fluid to drain away properly and reducing pressure on the optic nerve.
Get The Best In Diabetic Eye Care With Everett & Hurite
Along with eating right, exercising regularly, and keeping your blood sugar normal, taking care of your eye health is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Only an eye doctor can properly diagnose these conditions, some of which don't initially present with symptoms. In other words, by scheduling your annual dilated eye exam, you give yourself the opportunity to detect any issues early, before you start having issues with your vision, and take action to prevent further damage.
At Everett & Hurite, we understand the importance of taking care of your eye health, especially for those with diabetes. We offer comprehensive eye exams and treatments for both common and rare diabetic eye diseases, as well as preventive care to reduce your risk for developing major issues. Our board-certified eye doctors specialize in comprehensive diabetic eye care and can provide you with a full range of treatments and vision services.
So, if you have diabetes and are looking for the best in eye care, look no further than Everett & Hurite!
Don't wait—schedule an appointment with the experts at Everett & Hurite today and make sure you're seeing clearly for years to come. We look forward to seeing you!