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How Does Diabetes Affect Your Eyes

Regular Eye Exams Are Important

How Does Diabetes Affect Your Eye?

All people with diabetes are at risk for diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy develops over time and often goes unnoticed until vision loss occurs.

Following your diabetes ABCDEs and getting your eyes checked regularly by an ophthalmologist or optometrist are crucial to prevent vision loss or keep it from getting worse.

If you have diabetic retinopathy, very effective treatments are available. Your eye-care specialist will explain these to you.

Does Diabetes Increase The Chance Of Vision Loss

For those living with diabetes, symptoms can be a daily challenge combined with the thought of losing your eyesight, it becomes easy to be concerned.

Did you know that diabetes is the leading cause of vision loss in adults? This is a frightening aspect to the disease, as most of us take our eyesight for granted. People with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes do have a heightened risk for eye complications and blindness.

Sight loss with diabetes, however, is not inevitable. Increasing your knowledge about vision health and learning preventative steps to take can preserve your eyesight for many years to come.

Swelling Of The Eye Lens

Another potential effect from diabetes is swelling of the eye lens, leading to blurry vision. If your blood sugar levels change quickly from low to normal, the shape of your eyes lens can be affected and your vision can be blurred. Your vision goes back to normal after your blood sugar stabilizes. If youre getting eyeglasses, make sure your blood sugar levels are controlled before your exam so that you can get the most accurate glasses prescription, says Cai.

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Diabetic Macular Edema And Diabetes

The macula is located in the center of the retina and is responsible for central vision and vision for fine details.

If complications occur from diabetic retinopathy, fluid that has leaked from the blood vessels can spill into the macula. When this occurs, fluid buildup in the macula can lead to macular swelling and vision loss.

Diabetic macular edema affects more than half of patients with diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic macular edema is generally treated with anti-VEGF medications, and/or laser surgery.

Eye Disease Related To Diabetes

How Does Diabetes Affect Your Eyesight?

If you have high blood sugar for an extended period of time, it can damage the blood vessels in different parts of your body, including in your eyes. These damaged blood vessels in your eyes can lead to leaking fluids and swelling. Most diabetic eye diseases start with blood vessel problems.

The most common eye diseases related to diabetes include:

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When Should I Seek Care For Diabetic Retinopathy

If you have diabetes, it√Ęs important to have an eye exam at least once per year. Pregnant women who have diabetes should schedule an eye exam during their first trimester.

Between eye appointments, call your healthcare provider if you notice:

  • Black spots in your vision.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Flashes of light.
  • Holes in your vision.

Anyone who has diabetes has a risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. This serious eye condition needs immediate treatment. Without intervention, it can lead to vision loss and even blindness. But timely treatment can prevent vision loss and stop disease progression. The best way to avoid the disease is by managing your diabetes and controlling your blood sugar. Schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider if you notice any new vision changes.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/22/2021.


What Other Problems Can Diabetic Retinopathy Cause

Diabetic retinopathy can lead to other serious eye conditions:

  • Diabetic macular edema . Over time, about 1 in 15 people with diabetes will develop DME. DME happens when blood vessels in the retina leak fluid into the macula . This causes blurry vision.
  • Neovascular glaucoma. Diabetic retinopathy can cause abnormal blood vessels to grow out of the retina and block fluid from draining out of the eye. This causes a type of glaucoma .

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How Diabetes Can Affect The Eyes

The retina is the light-sensitive layer of cells at the back of the eye that converts light into electrical signals. The signals are sent to the brain which turns them into the images you see.

The retina needs a constant supply of blood, which it receives through a network of tiny blood vessels.

Over time, a persistently high blood sugar level can damage these blood vessels in 3 main stages:

  • background retinopathy tiny bulges develop in the blood vessels, which may bleed slightly but do not usually affect your vision
  • pre-proliferative retinopathy more severe and widespread changes affect the blood vessels, including more significant bleeding into the eye
  • proliferative retinopathy scar tissue and new blood vessels, which are weak and bleed easily, develop on the retina this can result in some loss of vision

However, if a problem with your eyes is picked up early, lifestyle changes and treatment can stop it getting worse.

  • eye pain or redness
  • difficulty seeing in the dark

These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have diabetic retinopathy, but it’s important to get them checked out.

Do not wait until your next screening appointment.

How Can You Determine Whether Diabetes Affects Your Eyes

How Diabetes can affect your eyes and what you can do to avoid those complications

Diabetic retinal disease. This is a typical complication of diabetes that happens when the disease destroys the blood vessels of the eye. This damage results in symptoms like blurred vision, floaters and black patches in the field of vision, retinal swelling , impaired color perception, and ultimately blindness.

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How The Eye Is Affected

The structure of the eye is like a camera. Light passes through the transparent front lenses, as if through the lenses of a camera, until it reaches the back wall of the eye. This wall contains a very thin piece of light-sensitive tissue: the retina.

The tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina can be damaged by diabetes. The damage can cause the blood vessels to become leaky, like a water hose with holes in it. This is called non-proliferative retinopathy. Fluid leaks out of the blood vessels and into the retinal tissue which can cause vision problems. This causes the retina to thicken, creating blurred vision. The swelling associated with diabetes in the macula, the central part of the eye responsible for staring straight ahead, called diabetic macular edema.

In another process, blood vessels damaged by hyperglycemia close, and a series of events begin. Starving retinal tissue produces growth causing new blood vessels to form on the surface of the retina. When the new blood vessels form, its called proliferative retinopathy.

These new blood vessels are weak and can easily break and bleed. This leads to scar tissue, which can build up on the back wall of the eye and stretch the retina, eventually separating it from the back of the eye. This condition is known as retinal detachment, and it can happen suddenly or slowly over time.

You can have 20/20 vision and still have diabetic retinopathy. Some of the early signs include:

Your Night Vision Has Changed

How clearly can you see other cars on the road when you drive? What about street signs? Often times, the first hint that something is wrong with your vision is when your night vision begins to get worse. Common symptoms include seeing halos around lights and difficulty distinguishing objects at night.

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What Can I Do To Protect My Eyes

There are many things you can do to safeguard your vision and prevent the development of diabetic eye disease.

Advice from the National Institute of Diabetes suggests managing your ABCs: your A1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol, as well as quitting smoking if you smoke.

The next step is having a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once every year. Even if you feel your vision is great, many of the above conditions can develop with few to no symptoms, and so there really is no excuse to not get your eyes checked often.

If you have diabetes and have struggled in the past to manage your health, its never too late to start. Put the steps above into practice today and give yourself the best chance at clear and healthy vision for years to come.

To find out more about diabetes and eye health or to book your consultation, leave us a comment or get in touch with one of our friendly clinic coordinators today.

How To Detect And Treat Vision Loss From Diabetic Eye Disease

How Does Diabetes Affect Your Eyes?

The eyes may be windows to the soul, but for people with diabetes, looking deep into the retina can also reveal a diabetes-related eye disease.

Two of the most common types of vision loss related to diabetes are macular edema and retinopathy. Both are under the scope of diabetic eye disease, which includes all the retinal changes caused by diabetes. Diabetes can also make you more likely to have other eye conditions, including cataracts and glaucoma.

The good news: Advances in testing are catching problems before serious retinal changes occur. This is an important step since eye damage may have no symptoms at first. And if you already have diabetes-related eye disease, advances in treatment can save your sight.

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Diabetic Eye Disease Symptoms

One of the reasons that regular eye exams are so important in preventing diabetic eye disease is that often these diseases have no early signs. Usually, its when the disease progresses that people first notice symptoms. Beginning treatment early can help prevent symptoms from getting worse. These symptoms include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Eye pain
  • Eye pressure

If you experience any of these symptoms, make an appointment with an eye care professional like Hieu Huynh, OD, at Suburban Eyes Clinic as soon as possible.

How Does A Diabetic Eye Exam Work

A diabetic eye exam can occur two ways:

  • An eye doctor places drops into your eyes to dilate the pupils and observe the health of the retina.
  • A special camera is used to take pictures of the back of the eyes.The pictures are sent to a computer program, which uses artificial intelligence to find diabetic retinopathy in the pictures.In less than a minute, the program will determine whether you have diabetic retinopathy and need to follow up with an eye doctor.
  • Getting dilated eye examinations are so important, says Cai. This allows your doctors to identify issues early and offer you treatments if you need them to prevent vision loss from diabetes.

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    Reduce Your Risk Of Diabetic Retinopathy

    You can reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, or help prevent it getting worse, by:

    • controlling your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels
    • taking your diabetes medicine as prescribed
    • attending all your screening appointments
    • getting medical advice quickly if you notice any changes to your vision

    Read more about how to prevent diabetic retinopathy.

    Why Does Diabetes Affect Your Eyes

    How Does Diabetes Affect Your Eyes?

    There are three types of diabetes . All involve ones body improperly handling insulin, a hormone that delivers glucose to the cells in your body. If an individual has too much glucose in their bloodstream because insulin is not carrying it to the cells, then this can cause damage to blood vessels and nerves.

    Over time, the bodys mismanagement of glucose causes the blood vessels around the retina to weaken. If signs of pathology in the retina are undetected and therefore left untreated, the vessels can rupture and leak blood into the eye. This can eventually lead to more severe consequences, including blindness.

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    Can Walking Alleviate Diabetes

    Diabetes is more prevalent among the elderly, yet a little exercise might make a significant impact. A research published today in Diabetes Care revealed that three short walks each day after meals were just as efficient in lowering blood sugar levels over the course of 24 hours as a single 45-minute walk at the same moderate speed.

    Reducing Your Risk Of Diabetic Retinopathy

    To prevent retinopathy or prevent it from getting worse, keep your blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol within a healthy range.

    Follow the ABCDEs of staying healthy with diabetes to reduce the risk of eye damage.

    A A1C Most people should aim for an A1C of 7%* or less by managing blood sugars well. A1C is a blood test that is a measure of your average blood sugar level over the past 120 days.

    B Blood pressure Control your blood pressure to less than 130/80* mmHg.

    C Cholesterol The LDL cholesterol target is less than 2.0* mmol/L.

    D Drugs to protect your heart Speak with your health-care team about medications.

    E Exercise & Eating Regular physical activity, healthy eating, and maintain a healthy body weight.

    S Screening for complications Ask your health-care team about tests for your heart, feet, kidneys, and eyes.

    S Smoking cessation Stop smoking and seek support for help with quitting.

    S Self management, stress, and other barriers Set goals for yourself to reach the targets and live well with diabetes, such as managing stress effectively.

    * Discuss your target values with your health-care team. Note that A1C targets for pregnant women, older adults and children 12 years of age and under are different

    For more information about diabetic retinopathy, visit the Canadian National Institute for the Blind .

    To find a CAO optometrist in your area, visit the Canadian Association of Optometrists.

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    If I Have Diabetes What Can I Do To Protect My Eyesight

    Get your eyes screened annually

    Diabetic retinopathy can become quite advanced before you will notice it affecting your sight. Therefore, it is very important that you go for regular eye screening appointments so that this complication can be diagnosed and treated in time.

    Everyone aged 12 years or over in the UK with diabetes is entitled to an NHS diabetes eye screening once a year. Make sure you attend yours.

    Know your blood glucose levels

    If your blood sugar is consistently high, you face a higher risk of diabetic retinopathy and other eye conditions as a complication of diabetes.

    Your healthcare team should help you set target blood sugar levels and show you how to check them at home. Your doctor can also check your average blood sugar level over a number of months with an HbA1c test.

    The closer you can keep to your target blood glucose levels, the lower your risk of developing problems with your sight.

    Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control

    High blood pressure and having high levels of fat in your blood can damage or block the blood vessels in your eyes and damage your sight.

    Make sure your doctor checks your blood pressure and cholesterol levels at least once a year as part of your annual review.

    Eat a healthy diet

    Eating healthily can help to keep your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol under control.

    Ask your healthcare team for support making a diabetes meal plan which you can follow.

    Exercise regularly

    Don’t smoke

    Read next

    Understanding Diabetic Eye Exam Results From The Artificial Intelligence System

    Diabetes and Your Eyes
    • I received a negative result: A negative result means you do not have a level of diabetic retinopathy that needs to be assessed by an eye doctor right away. You will need to see an eye care specialist promptly if you have blurred vision or other symptoms of vision loss. If there are no vision loss symptoms, retesting in 12 months is recommended.
    • I received an image quality insufficient result: In a small number of cases, it is not possible to take a good enough quality picture for the computer system to detect diabetic retinopathy. If this happens, you will be referred to an eye doctor for an eye exam.
    • I received a positive result: A positive result means you have a level of diabetic retinopathy that needs to be evaluated by an eye doctor. This may or may not be a level of disease that needs immediate treatment. Only an eye doctor can tell if the disease is severe enough for treatment. A positive result is an important reminder to talk to your doctor about your care plan and ways to help reduce the risk of diabetic retinopathy worsening and possibly causing vision loss.

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    How Can Diabetes Affect My Eyes

    Diabetes can lead to a serious eye disease called diabetic retinopathy, but it can also cause other vision problems.

    Having diabetes affects your blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar levels change quickly, it can affect the shape of your eyes lens. This can cause blurry vision that only stabilizes once your blood sugar levels are stabilized. For this reason , if you have diabetes, it is recommended that you make sure your blood sugar levels are controlled.

    Quick Tip: Be sure to always get an annual eye exam. Eye exams give your doctor an opportunity to find and address issues before they start to affect your vision.

    Myths About Diabetes And Vision Loss

    By Amanda Springstroh RN, quality care coordinator at Network Health Originally published on 10/29/2020 at 8:15 a.m.

    Diabetes is a condition that tens of millions of people live with here in the United States. Its also one of the most commonly misunderstood conditions.

    There are several myths about diabetes and what its like to live with this chronic condition. Lets look at some of these myths and address the relationship between diabetes and blindness a common element to many myths and misconceptions.

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    Diabetic Eye Disease Treatments At Dean Mcgee Eye Institute

    Controlling your blood sugar levels and scheduling an annual comprehensive eye exam are the two most effective ways for people with diabetes to prevent diabetic eye disease. Contact your eye doctor to determine if you need more frequent appointments.

    Should you need additional diabetic eye treatment, the diverse and talented team at Dean McGee Eye Institute offers several options to provide symptomatic relief. Request an appointment by giving us a call at 405.271.6060 or 800.787.9012, or by filling out our appointment request form using the button below.


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