Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that causes increased levels of glucose in the blood either because of inadequate insulin production or because the body does not efficiently utilize the insulin produced.
There are a few ways that diabetes, particularly when it is uncontrolled, can cause damage to your eyes.
Diabetic retinopathy is one of the primary causes of vision loss in adults. This condition occurs when elevated glucose levels cause blockages in the blood vessels around the retina. Consequently, these small blood vessels often leak resulting in irreparable retinal damage.
The retina is the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye, which is essential for proper vision. Retinal damage can result in permanent blindness. While controlling diabetes can reduce the chances of developing diabetic retinopathy, it does not entirely eliminate the risk and consequently it is essential to have an annual retinal exam.
Glucose levels that vary periodically can also affect eyesight. Since blood sugar levels are linked to the ability of your lens to maintain sharp focus, this can result in blurred vision that changes with glucose levels.
Diabetics are more likely to develop cataracts, a condition where the lens of the eye becomes clouded, which impacts vision. Cataracts are a common condition that comes with aging, but happens earlier in life in individuals with diabetes.
Glaucoma, which is caused by elevated pressure in the optic nerve, can lead to blindness. People with diabetes are two times more likely to develop glaucoma.
The best way to prevent conditions related to diabetes is for diabetics to control their glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, to eat properly, exercise and refrain from smoking. Additionally, it is essential to have regular annual checkups with an eye doctor to identify any developing damage early on. Even though in many cases any loss of sight that results from any of these conditions is irreparable, early diagnosis and treatment can often slow continuing vision loss.