Diabetes mellitus is categorized as Type I (formerly called insulin-dependent) and Type II (non-insulin dependent). Serious eye problems can arise from diabetes that is not well controlled, and sometimes even when blood sugar levels are well controlled. For this reason, yearly eye examinations including dilated eye health evaluations are recommended.
Diabetes affects vision in the following ways:
Changes in vision.
If blood sugar levels change drastically, temporary changes in the size and shape of the lens within the eye can cause rapid and large prescription changes. Any noticeable visual sharpness changes with current eyeglasses or contact lenses, especially blurriness when viewing far distances, should result in an immediate eye and vision examination. The vision prescription changes are reversible when blood sugar levels return to normal levels. Your eye doctor should be contacted immediately if you notice this type of sudden vision change.
Development of Diabetic Eye Diseases
Diabetic eye disease is a combination of eye problems that affect people with diabetes. Too much sugar in the blood damages the vessels that supply blood to your eyes. This leads to the development of eye problems like Diabetic Retinopathy, Macular Edema, and Neovascular Glaucoma.
Diabetic RetinopathyThis is a condition that affects the blood vessels that supply blood in your retina. The retina is the part of your eye that takes in light, processes it, and turns it into images.Diabetic retinopathy can be broadly broken down into two types: non-proliferative (NPDR) and proliferative (PDR). NPDR occurs first and typically causes small bleeds in the retina. There may be areas of swelling or ischemia (lack of oxygen). This stage can be improved with tighter control of diabetes. If left untreated or poorly managed, NPDR can advance to PDR. PDR is the more advanced stage of diabetic eye disease. It happens when the retina starts growing new blood vessels. This is called neovascularization. These fragile new vessels often bleed into the vitreous. If they only bleed a little, you might see a few dark floaters. If they bleed a lot, it might block all vision. These new blood vessels can form scar tissue. Scar tissue can cause problems with the macula or lead to a detached retina. PDR is very serious, and can steal both your central and peripheral (side) vision. Depending on the severity, treatment may consist of laser, medications, or surgery.Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy may not be seen at the early stages. As the condition progress, you may experience these symptoms;
- Blurred Vision
- A sudden decrease in vision
- Increased floaters, i.e., drake spots in your vision
- Impaired color vision
- Flashes of light
- Vision loss
Macular EdemaMacular edema occurs when blood vessels leak fluid that builds up in the center of the retina called the macula. Swelling in this area can lead to significant blurred vision that requires treatment to resolve. Macular edema can occur with either type of retinopathy.
People with diabetes are more likely to develop glaucoma than non-diabetics. Neovascular glaucoma occurs when new blood vessels develop in the front part of your eyes (iris). This obstructs the usual flow of fluid from the eyes, which causes pressure to build up in the eyes.
You may not feel this pressure, and it can be very high with no symptoms. This pressure causes permanent damage to the optic nerves that carry images from your eyes to the brain. When left untreated, glaucoma can lead to permanent loss of vision.
Cataracts are the world’s leading cause of blindness. The total number of people with cataracts is estimated to increase to 30 million by 2020.
Cataracts occur when the lens of your eyes gets cloudy. This causes blurred visions and colors to become dull since your eye can’t focus as it should be.
Though cataracts are common with age, individuals with diabetes may develop cataracts at an earlier age. High blood sugar levels cause changes in the protein structure of the lenses of your eyes, making them cloudy.
It is of utmost importance that you visit your eye doctor regularly, especially if you have Diabetes. Most of these eye conditions can be treated and prevented when detected early. Make an appointment with our experienced eye doctors today – it could save your vision.