According to the American Diabetes Association, over 11% of the American population has diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how your body metabolizes glucose, also known as blood sugar. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin (a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar) or can’t use insulin effectively. This results in high blood sugar levels, which can damage your eyes, kidneys, heart, and nervous system.
Not only is October Diabetic Eye Disease Month, but November is American Diabetes Month, making now the perfect time to discuss diabetes, the eyes, and how the two interact. Keep reading to learn more about how diabetes affects your eyes and what you can do to protect your vision.
How Diabetes Affects The Eyes
Diabetes can cause a number of eye problems, the most common being diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the tiny blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. These small blood vessels then tend to leak fluid or even bleed, which can cause vision loss.
People with diabetes also often have high blood pressure, which can also affect eye health. In fact, about 2/3 of diabetic adults have high blood pressure or take medications for hypertension. High blood pressure can also damage the small blood vessels in your eyes, leading to a condition called hypertensive retinopathy. High blood pressure can also cause blood flow to the optic nerve to slow, leading to optic nerve damage and vision loss.
Common Signs & Symptoms of Diabetes-Related Eye Diseases
Diabetic eye diseases, or eye problems that commonly affect people with diabetes, include diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma. Each of these eye diseases has its own set of signs and symptoms.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and the leading cause of vision loss among people with diabetes. This condition usually has no early warning signs, which is why it’s so important for people with diabetes to have regular comprehensive dilated eye exams. However, later symptoms include blurry vision, fluctuating vision, and trouble seeing at night.
Diabetic macular edema is the buildup of fluid in the macula, the small central portion of the retina responsible for sharp, straight-ahead vision. This condition usually causes no symptoms in its early stages, but can later cause blurred vision or vision impairment.
Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s lens, which can cause blurry or dimmed vision. People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing cataracts at a younger age than those without diabetes. Symptoms of cataracts include blurry vision, trouble seeing at night, and trouble distinguishing between colors.
Glaucoma is an increase in pressure in the eye that can damage the optic nerve. This nerve transmits images from the eye to the brain, so damage to it can lead to vision loss. People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma, and symptoms include pain in the eye, headache, nausea, and vomiting.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to contact your Everett & Hurite eye doctor right away.
Diabetic Eye Care Tips & Prevention
If you have diabetes, the best way to protect your vision is to keep your blood sugar levels under control. By keeping your blood sugar normal, you can help prevent or slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy and other diabetic eye diseases. In addition, be sure to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam each year so that any problems can be detected early.
In addition to keeping your blood sugar levels under control, there are a few other things you can do to manage diabetes while protecting your vision and overall health, like:
- Eating a healthy diet: A healthy diet can help you control your blood sugar and maintain a healthy weight, both of which are important for managing diabetes.
- Exercising regularly: Exercise can help you control your blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy weight.
- Taking your medications as prescribed: It’s important to take your diabetes medications as prescribed in order to keep your blood sugar levels under control.
- Monitoring your blood sugar levels: Checking your blood sugar levels regularly can help you manage your diabetes and protect your vision.
Early Diagnosis Is Key All of these eye diseases can be treated if they’re caught early enough. That’s why it’s so important for people with diabetes to have regular eye exams. Only an eye doctor can diagnose and treat diabetic eye diseases, and these regular exams allow your Everett & Hurite ophthalmologist to closely examine the back of your eye for signs of diabetic retinopathy and other diabetic eye diseases.
With early diagnosis, you can begin treatment and prevent blindness or vision loss before it occurs. So don’t wait – schedule an appointment with your Everett & Hurite ophthalmologist today.
If you have diabetes, the experts at Everett & Hurite are here to help you protect your vision. Schedule an appointment online today and take the necessary steps toward keeping your eyes healthy!