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The Eye and Diabetes

Unfortunately, many people are not aware of the impact diabetes can have on your eyes. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that results in increased levels of blood sugar either due to insufficient production of insulin or because the body does not efficiently utilize the insulin it produces.

There are a few ways that diabetes, particularly when it is not controlled by medication, diet or exercise, can damage your eyes.

The most common diabetic eye disease, called diabetic retinopathy, is one of the primary causes of blindness in adults. This condition is caused by blocked retinal blood vessels caused by the increased glucose levels. Consequently, these small blood vessels often leak causing irreversible damage to the retina.

Located at the back of the eye, the retina is essential for proper vision. Retinal damage can result in permanent blindness. While controlling diabetes can reduce the likelihood of developing diabetic retinopathy, it does not entirely eliminate the risk and consequently it is of utmost importance to have a yearly retinal exam.

Blood sugar levels that vary regularly can also affect vision. Since blood sugar levels have an impact on the ability of your lens to maintain sharp focus, this can result in blurry vision that fluctuates with blood sugar levels.

People with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts, a condition in which the lens of the eye becomes clouded, which causes vision problems. Cataracts are a common condition that comes with aging, but develops earlier in people with diabetes.

A person with diabetes is two times more likely to develop glaucoma, an increase in pressure in the optic nerve which causes optic nerve damage and eventually vision loss.

Having your diabetes under control is the best form of prevention for any of the eye and vision problems associated with the disease. In addition to controlling levels of glucose by means of diet and/or insulin, exercise and refraining from smoking can help. Additionally, it is imperative to have yearly eye exams with an optometrist to identify any possible damage as early as possible. Even though often any loss of sight that results from diabetic eye disease of any kind is permanent, early diagnosis and treatment can often slow further damage.