According to the CDC, about 37.3 million Americans have diabetes, which may unknowingly affect their vision. In many cases, diabetes can damage the eyes over time and cause vision loss, including blindness.
Diabetes is a common and long-lasting disease that affects how your body turns food into energy. And while diabetes impacts your health in more ways than one, you may not often hear about how it impacts your eyes.
Below, ophthalmologist Cory Bergman, MD, in Rapid City, South Dakota, and Casper, Wyoming, discusses the impact of diabetes on your vision. If you’re in need of minimally invasive glaucoma surgeries and advanced cataract surgery due to diabetes complications, Dr. Bergman can help.
Over time, diabetes can lead to vision loss or even blindness. Several eye diseases can affect people with diabetes, including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts. All can lead to vision loss, and many don’t show symptoms early on. Fortunately, early diagnosis and treatment may help protect your eyesight.
If you have diabetes, there’s a chance you might develop something called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar damages blood vessels in the light-sensitive layer of cells in the back of the eye, called the retina.
Diabetic retinopathy progresses in two stages: early (or nonproliferative) and advanced (or proliferative). In about half of the early-stage diabetic retinopathy cases, damaged blood vessels can swell and leak fluid into a part of the retina called the macula. The resulting condition, diabetic macular edema or DME, can cause blurry vision or stop blood flow.
At the advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy, the retina grows new and fragile blood vessels. These vessels often bleed into the space between the lens and the retina, leading to floating dark spots, difficulty seeing color, or even totally blocked vision.
Diabetes can also cause glaucoma, a group of eye diseases where a damaged optic nerve causes vision loss. The most common type of glaucoma, open-angle glaucoma, occurs when fluid buildup increases pressure on the optic nerve, and having diabetes doubles your risk of developing it.
Neovascular glaucoma is another disease that can occur alongside advanced diabetic retinopathy. In neovascular glaucoma, abnormal blood vessels grow on the iris, the colored part of the eye. These new vessels prevent fluid from draining away, which can increase eye pressure.
Glaucoma doesn’t have a cure, and it’s also unpreventable. In fact, half of those with glaucoma don’t know they have it. However, your vision loss can increase dramatically over time and lead to eye pain, nausea, or total blindness. Once you’re aware of your glaucoma, eye drops, laser treatment, or surgery can manage your eye pressure and prevent further vision loss.
Suffering from cataracts means the clear lens in your eye is clouding. While this is a common symptom as you age, people with diabetes are more susceptible to cloudy lenses at younger ages because high blood sugar can cause deposits to build up in the lenses. Over time, cataracts can blur your vision and interfere with everyday activities.
If your cataracts begin to prevent you from reading, driving, and doing other daily activities, cataract surgery can replace your clouded lens with a clear, artificial one. Cataract surgery is widely available, safe, and highly effective.
Diabetes can impact your vision, but you can manage your risk for some conditions and treat all of them before they get worse. To learn more about diabetes and eye disease, or if you have any questions on what more you can do to help your eyes, call your nearest office or book your appointment online today.