Diabetes: Your eyes’ worst enemy

Could that blurry vision you have been experiencing be due to your diabetes? High blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar levels — the hallmark of unchecked diabetes — wreaks havoc on your body, including your vision.

What is going on with my eyes?

Several eye conditions have been linked to people with diabetes, including retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts. These can lead to severe vision loss and blindness.

  • Diabetic retinopathy affects almost half of people with diabetes, making it the most common of the diabetic eye diseases and a leading cause of blindness in American adults, according the National Institutes of Health. Ranging in severity from mild to advanced, diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the eye, which later become blocked or swell and leak fluid.
  • Glaucoma is the result of increased fluid pressure inside the eye, leading to optic nerve damage and vision loss. People with diabetes face almost twice the risk of glaucoma compared to the general population.
  • Cataracts occur as the eye’s lens becomes cloudy, resulting in blurred vision. Cataracts occur in people with diabetes at younger ages than people without diabetes.

Unfortunately, eye damage caused by diabetes does not cause symptoms in the early stages. That is why it is crucial to have a comprehensive eye exam, including dilation of the eye, at least once a year. According to the National Eye Institute, even people with advanced diabetic retinopathy may be able to reduce their risk of blindness by 95 percent if they receive timely and appropriate care.

When people do experience symptoms, they usually notice changes to their vision. Maybe they have trouble reading, their vision is blurred or they experience disturbances such as rings around lights, dark spots or flashing lights. If you have any of these symptoms, schedule an eye exam.

Eye damage such as diabetic retinopathy is not curable, but treatments do exist to help preserve your vision and stop the damage from progressing.

You can also do your part to help put the brakes on vision loss by getting an annual eye exam and keeping your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol under control.

Need help managing diabetes?

The Diabetes Management Program at Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas, recognized by the American Diabetes Association, focuses on behavioral strategies for patients with diabetes.

For more information, contact Helen Simmons, BSN, RN-BC, Diabetes Education Coordinator at (409) 212-7295 or visit www.bhset.net-diabetes.


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