Eye health is a vital part of managing diabetes because unchecked blood sugar levels — the severe highs and dramatic lows — are damaging to the eyes. When left unmanaged over time, any one from a group of diabetic eye diseases can develop, including diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema (DME), cataracts, and glaucoma.
Part of diabetic management is diabetic eye care. At Long Island Ophthalmic Concepts (LIOC), our eye clinic, along with our eye doctors, specialize and treat those with eye concerns related to diabetes. Get more information and navigate how diabetes affects the eyes in today’s post.
Type 2 diabetes is a health condition that causes a spike in blood sugar levels, and if left unmanaged, affects and damages how your body uses insulin. Your body moves from being insulin-sensitive — using it when needed — to insulin-resistant when your body isn’t able to keep up with the demand and produce enough insulin to stabilize your blood levels.
If your blood sugar levels stay elevated, this leads to prediabetes and if this is not tackled can lead to type 2 diabetes. This disease has a host of health problems if it is not consistently and proactively managed.
Diabetes is the number one leading cause of blindness in the United States
An estimated 7.7 million Americans have diabetic retinopathy and of that, 750,000 also have DME.
10 percent of Americans have DME
The eyes are just one part of our bodies that can be affected by high blood sugar.
It’s critical as a part of diabetes management to have an eye care specialist that you see regularly who can help you manage your eye health and how it pertains to your diabetes. Below are the eye conditions related to diabetes.
Your eyes are filled with vibrant blood vessels moving and pumping blood throughout the eyes. When blood sugar levels spike, this can directly cause damage in the retina — the retina is light-sensitive tissue located towards the back of your eye that transmits what we see, thus how we experience the world.
The blood vessels can either leak or swell or block blood flow completely as a result of high blood sugar levels. In time, abnormal and new blood vessels may form and grow in the retina; all of these changes affect your eyes and may begin to embezzle your vision.
Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common eye conditions among those with diabetes, so if you notice a change in your vision, it is imperative to see your ophthalmologist.
Diabetic retinopathy isn’t an eye condition that you develop overnight, it occurs in stages. Keep in mind, any of these stages vary by the individual and may or may not present symptoms. Once detection has been established, it is critical to undergo a yearly eye exam.
The four stages include:
The mild and moderate stages are when the blood vessels begin to bulge and lose blood supply, whereas the advanced stages are distinguished by the growth of new blood vessels that cause a vision impairment as a result of floaters and cobweb-like strands that manifest in cloudy vision.
As the abnormal blood vessels grow, they can pull away from the retina, causing retinal detachment which contributes to vision loss and perhaps blindness when left unaddressed.
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
The unfortunate thing about diabetic retinopathy is it’s typically symptomless in the early stages and can affect both eyes. A yearly vision exam is encouraged, but make an appointment soon if you experience the following:
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can affect your eyesight, and having this disease can increase your chances of blindness if left untreated. There is much more to cover on both diabetic retinopathy, and we’ll also explore diabetic macular edema in our next post — please stay tuned for part two!