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4 Common Vision Problems Associated with Diabetes

by Damion Wasylow 16 November 2021 11:38 AM

man with diabetes testing blood glucose
Diabetes affects many parts of the body, including the eyes. Over time, sugar blocks the tiny, fragile blood vessels in your eyes that connect to the retina. That damage can cause the vessels to bleed or leak fluid. Blockages also cause your body to form new blood vessels that don’t function as well as the original vessels.

Over time, as diabetes continues to damage blood vessels in the eyes, it can lead to the development of these four vision problems.

1. Cataracts

People with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop cataracts. As sugar levels rise in the eye lens and aqueous humor (the fluid in the front part of the eye), the lens can swell and be damaged. Additionally, the glucose can be converted by an enzyme in the eye lens into a substance called sorbitol, which has been shown to contribute to cataract development over time.

Cataracts cause the lens of the eye to become cloudy, making it harder for light to pass through and reach the retina. In some cases, cataracts are mild, and vision is barely affected. Eventually, however, vision is so severely impacted that the person cannot see shapes or movement.

2. Glaucoma

Diabetes can also increase the risk of glaucoma, and the longer you have diabetes, the greater the risk of developing this condition. In fact, people with glaucoma are twice as likely to develop cataracts.

When fluid can’t drain properly from the eyes, pressure builds up. That elevated pressure damages blood vessels and nerves, which can alter your vision.

There are several types of glaucoma, but the most common form is open-angle. Open-angle glaucoma can be treated with medication that improves drainage and reduces eye pressure. Unfortunately, symptoms may not appear with this type of glaucoma until the condition has progressed and caused major vision loss. However, your eye doctor can catch it during your routine comprehensive eye exam

Diabetes can also increase the risk of a less common form of glaucoma known as neovascular glaucoma. This condition causes blood vessels to form on the iris, which prevents fluids from flowing normally and increases eye pressure.

3. Blurred Vision

High blood sugar can also cause blurred vision. In addition, when glucose levels are higher than normal, it can cause the lenses in your eyes to swell and impact your vision.

While concerning, diabetes-imposed blurry vision can typically be corrected by simply getting your blood sugar back to its normal range.

4. Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy develops because of high blood sugar levels. Without early intervention, this condition can cause complete vision loss. Keeping your blood sugar levels under control is an effective way to reduce your risk of this condition.

There are two primary forms of this condition.

  • Nonproliferative: The most common form of retinopathy. Nonproliferative retinopathy causes the capillaries at the back of the eye to swell and create pouches.
  • Proliferative: A more severe form of this condition. With proliferative retinopathy, the blood vessels become completely closed off, which causes new ones to form on the retina. These new, weak blood vessels can leak blood and cause vision loss.

Significant advancements have been made in the treatment of retinopathy. The sooner the condition is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.

If you are diabetic, it’s extremely important to have your eyes examined regularly to protect against and diagnose these potentially serious vision problems. At North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care, our optometrists are skilled at identifying the warning signs early, giving you the best chance of maintaining your eyesight. Contact us today at 352-373-4300 to schedule your eye exam.



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