You should plan to make yearly eye doctor visits when you have diabetes. High blood sugar can lead to eye problems like blurry vision, cataracts, glaucoma, and retinopathy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this year 1 in 10 people have diabetes, and approximately 1 in 3 have prediabetes. Furthermore, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults aged 20 to 74, causing several issues with the eyes, such as the following.
Blurry Vision: The eye has a lens that focuses light so we can see. If you have diabetes, when your blood sugar rises high, it can cause the lens to swell and make your vision blurry. These changes may fluctuate during the day.
Cataracts: In the lens, slowly over time, high sugar in the lens creates sorbitol build up which makes the lens cloudy. One might experience this change as blurred vision, halos around lights, or glare. While anyone can develop cataracts, people with diabetes are more likely to develop them younger and have them progress faster.
Glaucoma: Having diabetes doubles your risk of developing glaucoma. Most commonly, glaucoma develops when high eye pressure damages the optic nerve in the back of your eye. This nerve is important for processing vision information and damage initially causes loss of your peripheral vision. You often do not experience symptoms until it is too late. Your eye doctor has the screening tools to catch changes early.
Retinopathy: Over time, high blood sugar damages blood vessels in the body. When it damages the blood vessels in the eye, bleeding and leaking fluid can cause vision loss. If you have uncontrolled diabetes, new blood vessels can grow which are fragile, leak more, and can lead to retinal detachments or blindness.
What can you do? Eat healthy and exercise 30 minutes daily. If you have diabetes, take your medications to manage your blood sugar and reduce the risk of complications. Maintain good blood pressure and cholesterol while working with your health care team to keep up with the necessary screening and maintenance tests.
At first, you may have no symptoms. Eye problems can develop slowly, or you may have no symptoms until damage is severe and more difficult to treat. Since many of the eye issues related to diabetes are preventable, scheduling a comprehensive diabetic eye exam with your eye specialist is a smart move to check for the presence of eye disease and discuss what treatment options are available.
Dr. Roberts is an ophthalmologist with Coastal Vision Center, located at 6 South 14th Street in Fernandina Beach. For more information, call Coastal Vision Center at (904) 261-5741.