Diabetes and Your Eyes
Diabetes is a disease that prevents your body from making or using insulin to break down sugar in your bloodstream. Its complications can affect many parts of the eye. Diabetes can cause changes in nearsightedness and farsightedness. It can result in cataracts, glaucoma, a lack of eye muscle coordination (strabismus) and decreased corneal sensitivity. Visual symptoms can include fluctuating or blurring of vision, occasionally double vision, loss of side vision and flashes and floaters within the eyes. Often, these early signs of diabetes can be detected in a thorough optometric exam. The most serious eye problem associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when there is a weakening or swelling of the small blood vessels in the retina of your eye, resulting in blood leakage, the growth of new blood vessels and other changes. If it is left untreated, blindness can result. It is important to control blood sugar to minimize the risk of developing retinopathy. In addition, smoking and alcohol should be avoided.
In the early stages, diabetic retinopathy can be treated with laser therapy. A bright beam of light is focused on the retina, causing a burn which seals off leaking blood vessels. In other cases, surgery inside the eye may be necessary. Early detection of diabetic retinopathy is crucial.
Diabetics need to see a physician regularly and follow instructions regarding diet, exercise and medication. It is also extremely important to have a thorough evaluation from an eye care specialist annually. When indicated, more frequent evaluations may be necessary.