Without tight management, diabetes can wreck the body ““ literally, head to toe.
Vision problems, including blindness, are among the major complications of diabetes, and sudden blurred vision is one of the warning signs used to diagnose the disease. Complete loss of vision is rare for people with diabetes, but the disease can lead to other issues, including glaucoma and damage to the retina.
Consequences for your eyes include:
- Glaucoma ““ People with diabetes are 40 percent more likely than those without it to develop glaucoma, in which fluid pressure increases within the eye, leading to pinched nerves and blood vessels. Over time, that pinching results in damage to the retina, which records the images focused on it and converts those images into electrical signals, which the brain receives and decodes. One part of the retina is specialized for seeing fine detail. This tiny area of extra-sharp vision is called the macula.
- Cataracts ““ People with diabetes have a 60 percent higher risk for developing cataracts, or clouding of the eye’s lens, than people without the disease. They also tend to develop cataracts earlier and have them progress more rapidly.
- Retinopathy ““ Diabetes can damage the blood vessels in the retina, leading to permanent vision damage.
The American Diabetes Association recommends people with diabetes get a dilated eye exam at least once a year to check for signs of damage. Early detections can help keep minor vision impairments minor.
Here are five tips to help protect your eyes from diabetes-related damage:
- Keep your blood sugar levels tightly controlled.
By focusing on tight control of your blood sugar levels, you can reduce your risk of developing retinopathy by up to four times. You will also reduce your risk of the disease worsening should it develop.
- Keep your blood pressure under control.
High blood pressure makes existing eye problems worse.
- Quit smoking.
When you quit smoking, almost all your other risk factors will also improve.
- See your eye doctor if you notice any changes to your vision.
Blurring, double vision or blank spots in your field of vision, pain or pressure in one or both eyes, spots or floaters, eye redness that won’t go away, straight lines that suddenly look curved or wobbly, or not being able to see things at the sides of your field of vision (peripheral vision) as well as you used to.
- Get a dilated eye exam annually.
Your regular primary care doctor can’t detect changes in your eyes related to diabetes. An optometrist or ophthalmologist should conduct the dilated eye exam.