There are currently about 29 million people in the U.S. diagnosed with diabetes and 86 million diagnosed with pre-diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health.
If you have diabetes, your blood sugar, or blood glucose, levels are too high. Over time, these high levels of blood glucose can damage your eyes. Currently, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults. There are several common eye diseases caused by diabetes. The most common are cataracts, glaucoma, and retinopathy.
Cataracts and Diabetes
Cataracts are cloudy areas on the lens of the inside of the eye, which cause blurry eyesight. Cataracts is a common eye disease for the general population, but people with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts due to the high levels of sugar in their blood.
During your annual eye exam, your optometrist will screen for cataracts and if necessary refer you to an ophthalmologist for cataract surgery, a procedure for removing the cloudy area around the lens.
Glaucoma and Diabetes
Glaucoma is another common eye disease that may result from having diabetes. Glaucoma is caused when the fluid inside your eye does not drain properly. This issue can lead to heavy pressure inside the eye, causing discomfort and damage to nerves and blood vessels.
A common type of glaucoma that people with diabetes can have is called neovascular glaucoma. This specific type of glaucoma causes blood vessels to grow on the iris (colored part) of the eye. These blood vessels block the normal flow of eye fluid, which can increase eye pressure. There are treatments for glaucoma resulting from diabetes, such as eye drops, laser treatment, medicine, or surgery.
Diabetic retinopathy is a blood vessel complication resulting from diabetes. It is also known as microvascular complication. This disease is common for people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. If caught early on, retinopathy is preventable. However, if not detected, it may eventually lead to excessive vision loss or even blindness. Treatments for retinopathy typically include laser procedures or eye surgery.
Everyone should visit his or her optometrist annually to maintain healthy vision. However, those individuals with diabetes are more at risk for developing eye diseases. Getting regular eye exams can help identify problems in the early stages.
If you have diabetes and you start to develop symptoms of blurred or spotty vision make sure to contact your optometrist immediately. Check out our Find a Doctor tool to locate a Vision Source optometrist near you.