Diabetics Focus on Managing Eye Concerns

Recognizing Diabetic Disease Month, November 2010

Ameritas Insight Optometrist Ophthalmic Surgeon

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults. Although many diabetics experience eye problems, serious concerns can be avoided if treated in the early stages.

Millions of Americans are affected by diabetes, a serious disease that develops when the body does not make enough insulin or cannot use the insulin it makes. Insulin is a hormone required to convert sugar, starches and other foods into energy the body can use. When sugar builds up in the blood, it may cause the eye to swell and create blurred vision and damage the eye’s retina, lens and optic nerve.

Individuals with diabetes are at high risk of developing cataracts, glaucoma and retinopathy:

  • Cataracts – occurs when the lens behind the pupil in the eye becomes cloudy. Although anyone can get cataracts, diabetics often get cataracts at an earlier age than most, and the condition progresses more rapidly.
  • Glaucoma – results when pressure builds up inside the eyes, damaging nerves and blood vessels and overall vision. It is a common condition among diabetics, but symptoms are not obvious until in an advanced stage and significant vision loss already has occurred.
  • Diabetic retinopathy – develops when high blood sugar levels damage small vessels in the retina of the eye – the area of the eye that converts light entering the lens into images – and results in temporary or permanent blindness.

Vision problems are commonly experienced by diabetics. A variety of treatment options are available to prevent serious health issues, such as blindness, if detected in the early stages. Review these tips to prevent eye problems:

  • Avoid smoking
  • Control blood sugar and blood pressure levels as directed by your physician
  • Report vision changes immediately to your eye doctor, such as blurred or double vision, eye pain or pressure, signs of spots, floaters or flashing lights, or difficulty seeing out of the corners of the eye
  • Schedule eye examinations as directed by your eye doctor

Most importantly, diabetics should not wait until vision changes are noticed before scheduling an eye exam.

If you, or someone you know, has been diagnosed with diabetes, what steps have been taken to prevent or manage vision problems or eye diseases? Share your experiences and I’ll summarize them in a future blog. –Ken VanCleave, Ameritas Group