Diabetes is a widespread metabolic disorder that affects millions of individuals worldwide. While its impact on vital organs, such as the heart and kidneys, is well-known, its association with eye health is often overlooked. However, diabetes can significantly affect the eyes, leading to a litany of issues. Understanding the connection between diabetes and eye health, recognizing the signs and symptoms of diabetes-related eye problems, and prioritizing regular eye exams with skilled eye care professionals can help maintain healthy eyes in the long run, enabling you to live life to the fullest.
How Diabetes Affects Our Health
When a person has diabetes, it means that their body cannot produce enough insulin or cannot effectively use the insulin it does produce. This is important because insulin is the hormone that helps to control our blood sugar levels, and when these aren’t properly regulated by insulin, it can have severe health implications. Learn about the various ways diabetes can affect your eye health below:
Diabetic Retinopathy is the leading cause of vision loss in working adults. It is caused when high blood sugar levels begin to damage blood vessels in the retina. This light-sensitive layer of cells in the eye is key to healthy vision. When blood vessels here start to swell and leak, vision loss can occur.
In the early stages of Diabetic Retinopathy, blood vessels will form tiny pouches. While you will not be able to detect this, an optometrist can, which is why booking a regular eye exam is so important.
There is no cure for diabetic retinopathy, but it can be treated to minimize vision loss.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens of your eye. While this is normal as people age, it occurs faster in people with diabetes. People living with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing cataracts, as the high blood sugar caused by diabetes can create deposits that build up in the lenses and make them cloudy.
Fortunately, cataract surgery is a common and effective treatment option. During the procedure, the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) to restore clear vision. Cataract surgery is generally safe and has a high success rate, improving vision and overall quality of life for those affected.
Glaucoma refers to a group of eye diseases that can damage the optic nerve. While anyone can develop glaucoma, diabetes is a risk factor, and people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop some forms of glaucoma, such as open-angle glaucoma. Neovascular glaucoma is also a risk for those living with diabetes and can happen in conjunction with diabetic retinopathy. As new blood vessels grow to replace others that have been damaged, they can affect the flow of fluid out of the eye, causing neovascular glaucoma.
Signs and Symptoms
While each condition comes with its own set of symptoms, there are some common symptoms to watch out for. These can include:
- Blind spots
- Difficulty reading
- Difficulty seeing colors
- Vision loss
If you notice any of these symptoms, schedule an eye exam with your optometrist as soon as possible. Your eye doctor has the skills and knowledge to investigate and devise a treatment plan tailored to your specific situation and needs.
Regular eye exams are an excellent way to ensure continued optimal eye health. Some symptoms, like the cloudiness that comes with glaucoma, can happen so slowly that it will be difficult to detect on your own, at least in the initial stages. A standardized exam performed by a medical professional will pick up on these changes, even if you do not.
When Should I Book an Eye Exam?
It is a good idea to have a regular eye exam at least once a year. If you have a condition such as diabetes, your doctor might suggest more regular exams to monitor your eyes for any changes. In addition to your regular eye exams, you should book an appointment immediately if you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above.
If you have recently been diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, you should schedule another appointment with your optometrist to inform them of your diagnosis. This information will enable your optometrist to conduct appropriate eye tests and formulate a comprehensive plan for monitoring and treating any vision-related issues you may experience.
Remember, early detection is paramount in treating any eye-related condition. The sooner your optometrist is aware of an issue, the more time they have to treat it effectively, which can yield significant results for both the quality of your vision and your overall eye health.
To take charge of your eye health, don't hesitate to contact Premier Medical Eye Group and book an appointment with Dr. Greg Jackson today. By staying proactive and maintaining regular eye exams, you can stay informed about the status of your eyes and ensure optimal eye health for years to come.