DIABETES & VISION
Diabetes is a disease that causes your body to not use or store sugar properly. When your blood sugar gets too high, it can damage your eye by weakening or swelling the tiny blood vessels in the retina. This damage may lead to diabetic retinopathy. This disorder usually occurs in both eyes and dims or obliterates vision temporarily.
Diabetes may lead to new blood vessel growth on top of the retina. These blood vessels can develop into scar tissue, pulling the retina away from the back of the eye. This is called retinal detachment, and can lead to blindness if untreated. Additionally, irregular blood vessels can grow on the iris, leading to glaucoma.
Everyone who has diabetes is at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy. You may not notice any change in your vision in its early stages, which is why regular eye examinations are extremely important. What is diabetic eye disease?
What is diabetic eye disease?
Diabetic eye disease can affect many parts of the eye, including the retina, macula, lens and the optic nerve.
Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye conditions that can affect people with diabetes.
- Diabetic retinopathy affects blood vessels in the light-sensitive tissue called the retina that lines the back of the eye. It is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness among working-age adults.
- Diabetic macular edema (DME). A consequence of diabetic retinopathy, DME is swelling in an area of the retina called the macula.
Diabetic eye disease also includes cataract and glaucoma:
- Cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens. Adults with diabetes are 2-5 times more likely than those without diabetes to develop cataract. Cataract also tends to develop at an earlier age in people with diabetes.
- Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve—the bundle of nerve fibers that connects the eye to the brain. Some types of glaucoma are associated with elevated pressure inside the eye. In adults, diabetes nearly doubles the risk of glaucoma.
All forms of diabetic eye disease have the potential to cause severe vision loss and blindness.How can people with diabetes protect their vision?
Vision lost to diabetic retinopathy is sometimes irreversible. However, early detection and treatment can reduce the risk of blindness by 95 percent. Because diabetic retinopathy often lacks early symptoms, people with diabetes should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. People with diabetic retinopathy may need eye exams more frequently. Women with diabetes who become pregnant should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam as soon as possible. Additional exams during pregnancy may be needed.
Diabetic retinopathy and DME are detected during a comprehensive dilated eye exam that includes:
1. Visual acuity testing. This eye chart test measures a person’s ability to see at various distances.
2. Tonometry. This test measures pressure inside the eye.
3. Pupil dilation. Drops placed on the eye’s surface dilate (widen) the pupil, allowing a physician to examine the retina and optic nerve.
4. Optical coherence tomography (OCT). This technique is similar to ultrasound but uses light waves instead of sound waves to capture images of tissues inside the body. OCT provides detailed images of tissues that can be penetrated by light, such as the eye.
A comprehensive dilated eye exam allows the doctor to check the retina for:
1. Changes to blood vessels
2. Leaking blood vessels or warning signs of leaky blood vessels, such as fatty deposits
3. Swelling of the macula (DME)
4. Changes in the lens 5. Damage to nerve tissue