An estimated 34 million people in the United States have Diabetes. Diabetes is due to the body’s inability to breakdown sugar from the foods that we consume. There are two different classifications, Type 1 which is usually diagnosed in early childhood and Type 2 which can develop at various stages of life. Type 1 is usually managed with the use of insulin while Type 2 can be managed with lifestyle modifications such as weight loss and diet control, oral medications and in severe/uncontrolled cases insulin can be utilized. Both types can affect the function of various organs in our body including the heart, kidneys, nerves and your eyes.
So, the real question here is how does diabetes affect your eyes? Elevated blood sugar over a long period of time can cause damage to the blood vessels, especially in your eyes. The most common place for diabetes to affect the eye is in the retina, which is the light sensitive tissue in the back of your eye. The retina is filled with numerous blood vessels. When the blood vessels become affected, due to prolonged elevated sugar levels, they start to become weakened and will leak begin to leak fluid (blood) and other components. This is known as diabetic retinopathy. There are various different stages of retinopathy that can be diagnosed by your eye care professional. If diabetes is affecting your eyes, it is likely that it is affecting other organs in your body as well.
Increased blood sugar levels can cause the lens inside of the eye to swell which can lead to a change in vision. Cataracts, a normal age-related change, can develop earlier in diabetic patients compared to those that are non-diabetic.
What can be done if there are diabetic changes in your eye? The best thing to do is ensure that your blood sugars are as under control as possible. Eating healthy, exercising regularly and good medication compliance can decrease the chances of diabetes affecting your eyes. You should also ensure that you follow up regularly with your primary care doctor and/or endocrinologist to ensure optimal blood sugar control. Just because you feel that your vision is fine does not mean that there are no changes in your eyes. It is important to receive yearly ocular exams in order to prevent vision loss related to diabetes.
If you would like to discuss your diabetes and its effects on your eyes, contact us at 860-233-2020 to make an appointment with one of our eye care specialists today.