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Diabetes and Eyesight

Diabetes is a disease that affects the way we process food for energy and growth. With all forms of diabetes—type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes—the body has trouble converting sugar in the blood into energy, resulting in a host of potential health problems.

Diabetes increases the likelihood that common diabetes-related vision problems or diseases might occur:

  • Diabetics are prone to developing cataracts (a clouding of the eye’s lens) at an earlier age.
  • People with diabetes are almost 50% more likely to develop glaucoma, an eye disorder that damages the optic nerve often marked by an increase of internal eye pressure.
  • Macular edema (and macular degeneration) are more common in diabetics due to malfunctioning blood vessels in the middle region of the retina responsible for central, sharp vision.
  • Most notably, diabetes can result in diabetic retinopathy; an eye disease that affects the blood vessels in the all-important retina. Nearly 45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy.

That’s why there’s no separating diabetes and vision. If you have diabetes, then you should understand vision problems that increase in likelihood as a result of the disease.

Diabetes Statistics

Over 21 million people in the United States have diabetes, with an estimated additional 6 million people unaware they have a form of the disease. What’s more, an estimated 54 million Americans ages 40 to 74 have prediabetes, a condition that puts them at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. According to a recent American Optometric Association survey, diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults ages 20 to 74.

Eye Disease Signs

Having Diabetes makes you more prone to eye disease and vision issues. Knowing the early signs of eye disease can help treat and even prevent some issues from becoming serious problems

Book an appointment to speak with one of our Optometrists if you experience, or begin experiencing:

  • Blurry vision
  • Flashes, or small lights in your vision, usually at the periphery
  • Double vision
  • Fluctuations in vision
  • Reduced peripheral vision
  • Floaters, or dark specks in the form of dots, circles, lines, or cobwebs that seem to move across your field of vision
  • Vision distortion

Special Risks For Diabetics

Diabetics are particularly at risk for retinopathy, a serious condition where irregular blood sugar damages blood vessels connected to the retina. As blood vessels deteriorate, they may begin to swell, leak, and cause inter-retinal hemorrhaging, also known as vitreous hemorrhaging, where blood and other fluids fill the area between the lens and the retina of the eye. This blockage can cause serious vision loss, even full black blindness.

Another high-risk issue for diabetics is the possibility of retinal tears caused by the pressure build up from leaking blood vessels. As the fluid builds up and has no avenue of escape, it begins to exert outward pressure that can, if left untreated, cause the retina to tear away from the eye.

  • Since the retina is the light-sensitive region of the back of the eye responsible for processing visual images, diabetic retinopathy can affect your vision in mild, moderate or even severe ways.
  • If you have diabetes, you probably know that your body can't use or store sugar properly. When your blood sugar gets too high, it can damage the blood vessels in your eyes. This damage may lead to diabetic retinopathy. In fact, the longer someone has diabetes, the more likely they are to have retinopathy (damage to the retina) from the disease.
  • Changes in blood-sugar levels increase your risk of diabetic retinopathy, as does long-term diabetes.
  • According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 95% of those with diabetic retinopathy can avoid substantial vision loss if they are treated in time.