Diabetes is a group of diseases that impact how your body uses blood sugar. Blood sugar, known as glucose, gives our cells energy and helps our brains to function. If left untreated, diabetes can cause serious health issues that cause damage to many parts of the body. One of these parts is the eyes.

Understanding your risk

Individuals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk of developing eye problems than those who do not have diabetes. This is because, over time, high blood sugar can cause damage to the blood vessels in your eyes. This damage may result in vision issues, including diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma. If not diagnosed and treated, these issues can cause partial vision loss or total blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy

According to the CDC, diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults in the United States. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damaged blood vessels due to high blood sugar. This damage causes the blood vessels to swell and leak fluid and blood into the eye, which causes blurry vision or can stop blood flow to the eye. In many cases, the leaking fluid causes a part of the eye called, the macula, to swell. This is known as macular edema and is the leading cause of blindness among people with diabetic retinopathy.

Fortunately, diabetic retinopathy can be treated. Treatment can help repair damage in the eye and prevent blindness. When caught early, diabetic retinopathy can be treated before your vision is damaged.

Cataracts

Another eye disease that can be caused by diabetes is cataracts. A cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye and is the main cause of blindness worldwide. Cataracts can develop in anyone at any age, but older adults are most often diagnosed with the disease. However, people with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts at a younger age.

There are many ways to prevent cataracts from developing, including managing blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol, not smoking, exercising regularly and having a dilated eye exam as recommended by your medical provider.

Currently, surgery is the only treatment for cataracts and is only recommended if cataracts are interfering with your daily tasks.

Glaucoma

Individuals with diabetes are twice as likely to develop glaucoma than those who do not have diabetes. Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve. This damage often causes partial vision loss or total blindness. Glaucoma is caused when an individual’s eye pressures are too high for too long. It is common for individuals who have diabetic retinopathy to develop glaucoma due to the damage caused by leaking blood vessels in the eye.

In many cases, glaucoma does not have any symptoms in the early stages. Because of this, it is important that you regularly get eye exams. The CDC recommends that individuals with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam at least once a year to check for nerve damage and other issues in the eye.

Unfortunately, glaucoma cannot be cured. However, there are treatment options that can help prevent vision loss or total blindness. Treatment options include medicated eye drops that help reduce eye pressure levels, oral medications or surgery.

Don’t delay – schedule an eye exam today!

Regularly having your eyes checked is important to your overall health, whether you have diabetes or not. At HealthLinc, we work to help you take care of your whole body, vision included! If you are due for your annual eye exam, schedule an appointment with one of HealthLinc’s optometrists! We have vision services at our East Chicago Harbor, Mishawaka and Valparaiso clinics. To schedule an appointment, please call 1-888-580-1060.