Diabetes and Vision Loss: Know the Connection, Take Steps to Prevent Eye Problems

People with Diabetes often face eye problems that, left untreated, can result in vision loss or even blindness. Most common is “diabetic retinopathy.” This broad term refers to conditions that harm the retina.

The most serious is “proliferative retinopathy.” Blood vessels to the retina leak, tissue swells, vision is clouded. Retinas can detach if the condition isn’t treated. The retina is light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. The retina sends signals to the brain when light falls on it, telling the brain to make images.

Among early warning signs of diabetic retinopathy are:

  • An empty spot at the center of your field of vision.
  • Vision that’s blurred.
  • Spots in your field of vision.

At first, you may not notice symptoms. This is why annual eye exams are so important. Early detection and treatment can greatly reduce vision loss and the risk of blindness.

Keeping your blood sugar at the right level is also key in lessening the chances of damaging your eyes.The longer you have diabetes, your risk of getting diabetic retinopathy grows. In the United States, the risk is highest among African-Americans and Hispanics.

But there’s good news! Available treatments include use of lasers on outpatient to seal blood at places where blood leaks from the retina.

Some more eye diseases linked to diabetes:

  • Diabetic macular edema. The macula is at the center of retinas. Maculae are key in focusing. They control our reading, recognition, and other complex visual activities. When fluid builds up in retinas, about half of all people with diabetic retinopathy will get diabetic macular edema.
  • Cataracts. Cataracts are common among older adults, but cataract risks climb even higher among diabetics. Cataracts can grow faster among younger diabetics, as well. Cataracts occur when lens in the eye cloud over and block light.
  • Glaucoma. Diabetics are more likely to get glaucoma. This happens when pressure builds in the eye. Blood vessels going to optic nerves and retinas are damaged. If enough damage occurs, the condition can eventually lead to blindness.

This all sounds eye-popping. However, diabetes managed by eating well, staying active, and taking your meds as prescribed by your doctor may help keep vision trouble at bay.

Yearly eye exams are the best way to catch problems early when they’re easiest to treat. You might even save your eyesight!

For more on eye care and complications, see insight and information at the American Diabetes Association site.


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