Did You Know: The Connection Between Vision Health and Diabetes
There are many complications that arise from having diabetes—damage to your heart, blood vessels, nerves and kidneys to name a few. But you may not realize that diabetes can also damage your eyes. In fact, diabetes is the top reason Americans under the age of 74 lose their vision.
One of the more common eye issues facing people with diabetes is glaucoma, a condition where pressure in the eye damages the retina and optic nerve. Diabetics have a 40 percent higher risk of getting glaucoma than those who don’t have diabetes, and the risk goes up the longer you have the disease. Cataracts, a condition where the lens gets cloudy, are also a concern for people with diabetes. They are 60 percent likelier to get cataracts and, when they do occur, they progress faster.
There is also something called diabetic retinopathy, which is an umbrella term for any retina issue caused by diabetes. These conditions fall into three main categories: nonproliferative retinopathy (blood vessels become blocked, causing capillaries to balloon out), macular edema (fluid leaks into the part of the eye where focusing occurs) and proliferative retinopathy (blood vessels become so damaged they close and new ones grow, which can cause scar tissue and vision distortion).
This all sounds pretty scary, but just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you are destined to lose your vision. In fact, most people with diabetes have minor eye disorders at most. You have to be proactive, though. To prevent diabetes-related eye problems, make sure you keep your blood pressure and blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. The other important step is getting regular vision checkups. Many of the above issues don’t immediately impact your vision, which means the only way to catch them early is to get regular eye exams. And early diagnosis and treatment can stop many of these conditions in their tracks or dramatically slow their progress.
Photo credit: Fabio Gismondi