Diabetes and its Effect on Eyes

Many people don’t know that diabetes can influence eye health and vision. When someone has diabetes, the body either can’t make insulin or does not use insulin properly. This, in turn, causes blood glucose (blood sugar) levels to increase. When glucose increases its presence in the blood, adverse effects can occur.

Millions of Americans suffer from diabetes, and even more are “prediabetic,” meaning that they’re at risk of developing diabetes. Doctors estimate than a third of people with diabetes don’t even know they have it, and thus, cannot be treated. Symptoms of diabetes include numbness or tingling in the appendages, difficulty healing abrasions or bruises, persistent thirst or hunger even after consuming adequate food and water, fatigue and blurry vision.

The blurry vision associated with diabetes is caused by elevated blood sugar. Blurred vision is actually a sign that the condition is not under control. When blood sugar levels are elevated for a long time, fluids from the body are pulled into the lens, causing it to swell, resulting in the blurred vision.
diabetes eye health diabetic retinopathyAlso associated with diabetes is a condition called diabetic retinopathy, which occurs in more than half of people with diabetes. Elevated levels of blood glucose cause damage to the blood vessels of the retina, the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye. These changes are called diabetic retinopathy. This condition affects more than half of people with diabetes. The more out of control the blood sugar, the more likely the possibility that diabetic retinopathy will develop. Left unchecked, this condition can lead to blindness.

In addition, people with diabetes have a greater probability of developing glaucoma. In fact, they are at least 40 percent more likely to suffer from glaucoma than people without diabetes. This risk increases with age. Cataracts are also a threat to people with diabetes, and they often strike at an earlier age. Both of these conditions put those with diabetes at risk for becoming blind.

Of course, not only can diabetes harm the eyes, it can also wreak havoc on the rest of the body. Those with diabetes are at greater risk for heart problems, strokes and renal failure. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to serious, deep-seated foot infections, which sometimes can only be treated by amputation of a toe, foot or leg.

Because diabetes is such a dangerous disease, the American Diabetes Association has designated November as American Diabetes month in order to bring further attention to the disease and its effects.

It is recommended that anyone diagnosed with diabetes have an examination each year with an ophthalmologist. In taking this initiative, those with diabetes can make sure they are not at risk of developing one of several eye disorders associated with the disease.

The Atlanta Vision institute is proud to support the American Diabetes Association during the month of November by bringing attention to diabetes and the risks that accompany the disease.