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How Diabetes Affects the Eyes

How Diabetes Affects the Eyes

Diabetes is a serious disease that impacts many organs and systems within the human body. It affects the heart, kidneys, nerve system, as well as the eyes. In fact, according to the National Eye Institute, diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness among working-age adults in the US. People suffering from diabetes should get annual eye exams before experiencing any signs of vision loss. To understand this condition better, it’s important to look at how diabetes affects the eyes.

What Are the Different Types of Diabetic Eye Disease?

1. Diabetic Retinopathy

This disease occurs when the high blood sugar levels due to diabetes cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina. It is a leading cause of diabetes, affecting over 80 percent of the people living with diabetes for over 20 years.

The symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include: - Spots or dark floaters in the vision. - Fluctuating vision. - Empty areas in the vision. - Blurred vision. - Vision loss.

2. Diabetic Macular Edema

A consequence of diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema is yet another common eye problem caused by diabetes. This is due to high blood sugar that weakens the blood vessels of the eyes. They can leak or grow in the retina and when the fluid seeps into it, it can cause this serious diseases known as diabetic macular edema.

The symptoms of diabetic macular edema include: - Blurred vision. - Wavy central vision. - Change in the way one sees colors. - Vision loss.

3. Cataract

People with diabetes are two to five times more likely to develop cataracts over the course of their lives than those without diabetes. And because high levels of glucose in the aqueous humor and lens of the eyes cause the lens to swell, this leading to a loss in the clarity of your vision. It should be noted that cataract tends to develop at an earlier age in people suffering from diabetes.

Symptoms of cataract include: - Clouded vision. - Sensitivity to light. - Blurred vision. - Increased difficulty to see at night. - Seeing halos around lights. - Colors appearing fader than usual. - Double vision in just one eye.

4. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is no one, but a series of eye diseases affecting the eye’s optic nerve. In adults suffering from diabetes, the risk of developing glaucoma is twice as likely than with people without diabetes. The connection between diabetes and glaucoma has puzzled researchers for years. This is because scientists have also found that a person suffering from open-angle glaucoma, the most common type of the disease, is more susceptible to developing diabetes than people without glaucoma.

There are typically no symptoms or warning signs attached to the presence of open-angle glaucoma. The disease develops slowly and one can experience noticeable vision loss only after many years of carrying glaucoma. With another type of glaucoma

– acute angle-closure glaucoma

– sufferers experience symptoms like:

- Hazy vision.

- Severe eye pain.

- Severe head pain.

- Sudden vision loss.

- Nausea and vomiting.

- Multi-colored circles around lights.

How Are These Eye Diseases Detected?

If you suffer from diabetes, you need to go through comprehensive dilated eye exams that include:

- Visual acuity testing. This is a test that measures the diabetic’s ability to see at various distances.

- Pupil dilation. The ophthalmologist will place drops on the eye’s surface to dilate the pupil, and they will then examine the retina and optic nerve.

- Tonometry. A procedure that helps eye care professionals determine the pressure inside the eye.

- Optical coherence tomography. This test uses light waves to capture images of the tissues inside the body that can be penetrated by light.

If the ophthalmologist detects any sign of these eye diseases, then they may also use a fluorescein angiogram to see if there are any damaged or leaky blood vessels. This procedure is a bit more invasive as a fluorescent dye is injected into a vein. Nonetheless, it’s a vital step to be taken in order to receive a clear diagnosis.

Final Thoughts

Vision loss due to the effects of diabetes on the human body is sometimes irreversible. This is especially true with diabetic retinopathy. Nonetheless, early detection and proper treatment can reduce the risk of blindness by up to 95 percent. However, since some diseases often lack warning signs or symptoms, people suffering from diabetes should see an eye doctor at least once a year to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam.

Researchers are still studying how diabetes affects the eyes and seek better ways to detect and treat vision loss due to this debilitating disease. In the future, we may see new innovative treatments that can help manage or cure these eye problems.