Most people know that diabetes can affect organs like your heart, especially long-term. You may not be aware that this chronic condition can damage your eyes and reduce your quality of vision.
Through routine eye exams, our dedicated and experienced eye doctors at Leader Heights Eye Center in York, Pennsylvania, can help monitor your eyes to prevent any vision changes due to diabetes.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when your body is unable to produce enough insulin or is unable to use it effectively. This condition affects millions of people in the United States alone.
Insulin is a hormone that allows your cells to convert the glucose you consume into energy. Your body breaks down food into glucose.
The breakdown of food into glucose triggers the pancreas to release insulin. When there is a lack of insulin, or it does not prompt the response it should, your blood sugar becomes too high.
While it can be managed, there is no cure for diabetes. High blood sugar can affect your body in a variety of ways.
When these levels are sustained over time, they can damage your heart, kidneys, and eyes, among other organs.
What Is Diabetic Eye Disease?
Diabetic eye disease is a term that describes several different eye conditions that can result from diabetes. These include diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, glaucoma, and cataracts.
Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that can result from diabetes. Increased blood sugar can harm the blood vessels throughout the body.
That includes those that make up the retina. The retina contains millions of photosensitive receptors and sends visual information to the brain.
In the case of diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels leak, swell, or are otherwise damaged. Unfortunately, these irregular blood vessels can significantly damage your vision when left untreated.
Diabetic Macular Edema
Diabetic macular edema is another condition that those with diabetes can develop in their eyes. This condition also affects the retina.
Diabetic macular edema causes the part of your eye responsible for your central vision, the macula, to swell. This eye condition can cause permanent vision loss if it advances and is left untreated.
There are two types of diabetic macular edema: focal and diffuse. Focal involves minor, localized leaks.
Diffuse means there are more widespread leaks throughout your retina.
Increased Risk for Other Eye Conditions
Having diabetes also increases your chances of developing glaucoma. Glaucoma is a disease that damages your optic nerve.
This nerve transmits images from the retina to the brain so that you can see. When you have diabetic retinopathy, the vessels in your eye become weakened.
Then, abnormal blood vessels can develop that impede your eye’s ability to drain the natural fluid your eye produces. The resulting increase in eye pressure can then lead to glaucoma.
You are more likely to develop glaucoma if you have diabetes. Similarly, you have an increased likelihood of forming cataracts early if you have diabetes.
A cataract is when the lens of your eye becomes clouded. Cataracts can cause blurry vision and glare from light sources.
You can restore vision altered by cataracts through cataract surgery can. However, any vision lost due to glaucoma is permanent.
What Are the Symptoms of Diabetic Eye Disease?
Because it refers to a broader class of conditions, the symptoms of diabetic eye disease depend on which conditions you are experiencing. Diabetic eye disease sometimes does not present any symptoms in its early stages.
Symptoms can also be so mild that a person may not even notice any changes to their vision. Possible symptoms of diabetic eye disease include:
- Blurry or cloudy vision
- Blind spots
- Glare or halos around lights
- Eye pain
- Colors appearing faded
- Difficulty driving
- Difficulty performing up-close tasks
- Vision changes
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and have diabetes, you may have a diabetic eye disease. Our eye doctors in York work with an experienced group of local practices to provide you with optimal care.
Is Diabetic Eye Disease Preventable?
There is no guaranteed way to prevent the possibility of developing some form of diabetic eye disease if you have diabetes. However, there are some steps you can take to decrease your risk and protect the health of your eyes.
The better controlled your blood sugar levels are, the less likely you are to develop any of these diabetes-related eye conditions. A healthy diet and exercise can reduce your chances of excess glucose causing damage to your vision.
Early detection is one of the best ways to ensure successful treatment. It is essential to schedule regular eye exams with your eye doctor, especially if you have diabetes.
Your eye doctor will inform you how often you need to be seen. To monitor any diabetic changes in your eyes, your eye doctor will likely want you to have at least one comprehensive eye exam a year.
In the early stages, these conditions often present with no symptoms. This means you may not even notice you have them.
The sooner we can detect potential issues with your vision, the less likely they will be to cause permanent effects. If you have diabetes and it’s been a while since your last eye exam, schedule a visit with your eye doctor.
Do you want to learn more about how diabetes can affect your vision and eye health? Schedule an appointment at Leader Heights Eye Center in York, PA, today!