Avoiding Vision Loss from Diabetes

Vision loss is a serious problem for older people with diabetes. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to increasingly blurry vision, even to blindness. The good news is that with treatment, careful control of blood sugar levels and regular check-ups, vision loss from diabetes can often be reduced or even eliminated.

Diabetic Retinopathy

For those with diabetes, the most common form of vision loss is diabetic retinopathy. It takes place when high blood sugar causes tiny blood vessels in the eye to grow and occasionally leak blood and other fluids onto the retina.

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Difficulty seeing well at night
  • Blurred vision
  • Seeing floaters or spots
  • Having a dark or empty spot in the center of your vision

People may not experience any symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. It is important to have an eye exam every year. Doctors will typically check for:

  • Changes in the lens
  • Leaky blood vessels
  • Changes in blood vessels
  • Damage to nerve tissue

By keeping blood sugar and blood pressure levels under control, vision damage can be held to a minimum. It also helps to take medications as prescribed, stay active, and eat proper foods. When you meet with your doctor, you can also be checked for other diabetic eye disorders identified by the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, including:

Prevention is Key

Even if you have no symptoms, it’s vital to get vision tests at least yearly if you have diabetes. While most eye problems related to diabetes problems can be minor, blindness from diabetes-related complications is still an issue.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) says most people with diabetes may develop eye disorders like “floaters” (dark spots or strings floating in your vision), blurred eyesight, or less-than-perfect color vision. But the ADA also says nobody should be lulled into false security and offers insight and information on eye care and eye complications to avoid problems that may eventually lead to blindness.

Major eye disorders linked to diabetes include:

  • Cataracts cloud an eye’s clear lens and block light. People without diabetes get cataracts, but diabetics are 60 percent more likely to get them, can be younger and often see cataracts progress more quickly.
  • Glaucoma – a building of pressure in the eye, which pinches the blood vessels that carry blood to the retina and optic nerve causing vision loss due to damage to the retina and nerve.
  • Retinopathy – a general term referring to two types of retinal disorders—nonproliferative retinopathy, which causes capillaries in the back of the eye to balloon and block blood vessels; and
  • Macular edema - causes fluid leak into the focal point of the eye, causing blurred vision.

See your eye doctor at least once a year if you have any type of diabetes and more often if your doctor directs. It’s a small price to pay to keep your eyesight.


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