Diabetes can increase the risk of developing vision problems and certain eye diseases.
Controlling blood sugar levels can help prevent or delay complications. Regular, dilated eye health exams are important for people with diabetes to monitor for signs of diabetic eye disease.
Keep reading to learn more about how diabetes can affect your sight, the steps you can take to prevent diabetic eye disease, and the treatment options available!
How Does Diabetes Affect the Eyes?
When you have diabetes, your body cannot make or use insulin properly. Consequently, sugar will accumulate in the blood vessels in your body, including your eyes, and lead to conditions such as diabetic eye disease.
What is Diabetic Eye Disease?
Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye conditions caused by diabetes. The most common form of diabetic eye disease is diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the delicate tiny vessels at the back of your eye called the retina. Early symptoms include floaters, blurriness, difficulties perceiving colors, and dark areas of vision. Left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause vision loss or blindness.
There are two kinds of diabetic retinopathy:
Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR)
This is the earliest stage of diabetic retinopathy. When you have NPDR, the walls of the blood vessels in your retina become weak due to high blood sugar.
As a result, these vessels ooze fluid and blood into the retina. The leakage may decrease vision if it makes the macula swell.
At the center of the retina is the macula. It’s responsible for your straight-ahead vision and enables you to see fine details clearly.
Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR)
Proliferative retinopathy is the advanced stage and occurs when too much blood sugar blocks the tiny blood vessels that nourish your retina, closing off blood supply.
Consequently, your eye will attempt to replace the damaged vessels by growing new ones. However, the new blood vessels are weak and can easily bleed into the vitreous, causing severe vision loss.
The vitreous is the clear gel-like fluid in your eye. It fills the space between the retina and the lens.
The abnormal blood vessels can also lead to scar tissue formation, which can cause the retina to detach.
Can You Prevent Diabetic Eye Disease?
It’s not always possible to prevent diabetic retinopathy. But you can minimize your risk with these tips.
Monitor Your Blood Sugar Levels
Ask your doctor what your target levels are and how often you should check and record your blood sugar. Regularly monitoring your sugars can ensure you stay on top of them, which allows for improved control.
The closer you get to your target levels, the lower your likelihood of developing diabetic eye disease.
Manage Your Diabetes
Living a healthy lifestyle can help keep blood sugars in the target range. Prioritize a healthier diet with more fiber, like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, and eat less carbohydrates.
Physical activity like walking for at least 30 minutes a day should also be part of your routine.
How is Diabetic Eye Disease Treated?
There are a few options your eye doctor has when it comes to treating diabetic eye disease, such as:
Anti-VEGF medications work by blocking VEGF, the protein that encourages the growth of fragile blood vessels. The medications also help decrease swelling in the macula, slowing vision loss.
Laser treatment may be used to seal off leaky vessels to reduce swelling of the retina. The treatment can also be used to shrink abnormal blood vessels and prevent them from forming again.
If the leaky blood vessels bleed into the retina, you may need a vitrectomy. The vitreous mixed with blood will be removed during this procedure.
Your eye surgeon will then replace the vitreous with a saline solution. This enables light to pass through the clear solution and focus on the retina.
Save Your Vision from Diabetes
At VisionPoint Eye Center, our expert eye doctors can detect even the most subtle signs of diabetic eye disease through dilated eye exams. When caught early, there are effective treatments that can slow or prevent your condition from worsening and preserve your sight.
Schedule your comprehensive eye health exam at VisionPoint Eye Center in Bloomington, IL, today!