When you have diabetes, you already know you are at a higher risk for certain complications when it comes to your eyesight. While you have an increased chance for blindness over someone without diabetes, most diabetics generally only suffer minor vision problems.
However, having chronically high blood sugar can lead to diabetic eye disease, as it can cause damage to the tiny blood vessels in the retina. High blood sugar can also cause blurry vision and an array of other issues.
Common Diabetic Eye Problems
A few of the most common diabetic eye problems include:
Cataracts: Cataracts cloud the lens of your eye, making it difficult to see clearly and focus. Although plenty of people who don’t have diabetes get cataracts, diabetics are 60 percent more likely to develop them, especially at a younger age. They will also progress faster in someone with diabetes.
Glaucoma: Those with diabetes are 40 percent more likely to suffer from glaucoma, a complicated disease that is caused by increased pressure in the eye that ultimately leads to blindness. It can be difficult to diagnose glaucoma because there are generally very few recognizable symptoms.
Diabetic retinopathy: Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision impairment and blindness in those with diabetes. This diabetic eye disease can start off mild, where blood vessels in the retina leak fluid or bleed. In the advanced stage, new, abnormal blood vessels increase in number on the surface of the retina, leading to loss of cells and scarring.
Diabetic macular edema (DME): DME is the buildup of fluid in the macula, a region of the eye within the retina. In those with diabetic retinopathy, DME is the most common cause of vision loss.
How to Avoid Diabetic Eye Disease
By visiting your eye doctor regularly, you can keep these diabetic eye problems from escalating. A routine visit to the eye doctor for a person with diabetes includes a comprehensive dilated eye exam so the ophthalmologist can thoroughly examine the retina and optic nerve for any signs of damage. A few other tips to keep your eyes healthy include:
Keep blood sugar levels in check.
High blood sugar affects the shape of your eye’s lens, which can make your vision blurry. When blood sugar levels go back to normal, your vision will clear. Plus, high blood sugar can also cause damage to the eye’s blood vessels. If you’re maintaining your blood sugar levels, you can avoid these types of problems.
Manage your blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure and diabetes, elevated blood pressure increases blood flow to the eye and can escalate the risk of diabetic retinopathy. Controlling high blood pressure will lower this risk, or reduce the worsening of existing retinopathy even more so than maintaining your blood sugar levels.
Live a healthy lifestyle.
Regular exercise and a well-balanced diet can also help decrease your risk for diabetic eye problems. Plus, if you are a smoker, it’s time to quit. Smoking constricts blood vessels, which raises your blood pressure and prohibits the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen to the eye (called retinal hypoxia). Quitting smoking is the best thing a diabetic can do to prevent eye problems, as well as prevent a variety of other health issues.
If you have diabetes and experience any change in your vision, make an appointment to see your doctor immediately. Finding problems as early as possible makes treatment easier and more effective.