People who have diabetes may be prone to eye complications with possible permanent vision loss. Certain eye conditions may present with symptoms but others do not. You may require an eye exam including a dilatation. Discover more about new treatments for eye problems which include such innovative treatments as laser surgery and medication.
- People with diabetes often have elevated blood sugars which can damage their eyes over time. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in adults in America. The retina is a light sensitive tissue located in the back of your eyes. Retinopathy damages the blood vessels in your retina. Symptoms may include floating or dark spots, blurred vision, blank spots or flashing lights as well as difficulty seeing from the corners of your eyes. It may also include pain or pressure in your eyes. Many times there are no symptoms with this serious condition. Always schedule your yearly eye exam even if you have no symptoms.
- The major types of diabetic retinopathy are background retinopathy and proliferative retinopathy. To minimize complications, patients are advised to stop smoking. Patients may undergo treatment for cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure control to stop new blood vessels from forming. Sometimes the symptoms of retinopathy can be resolved if you get your blood sugar back into the target range (80-130 mg/dl before meals and less than 160 mg/dl two hours after eating). Typically your blood sugar has to be stable for three months or more to get results. Laser treatment or surgery is also being used to help people with diabetic retinopathy.
- If you have lost vision due to diabetic retinopathy, discuss low vision services and devices with your eye doctor. Low vision devices make the most of the vision you still have. Your regular eye doctor may refer you to a specialist in low vision or a community organization to get information about counseling and services. A school of optometry may also be able to help.
- Glaucoma is another common eye problem for people with diabetes. Pressure builds in the eye from excess fluid that does not drain properly. This can lead to nerve damage as well as damage to the tiny blood vessels in the eye. This causes a recognizable change in your vision. Surgery, medications and eye drops are common treatments for glaucoma.
- An uncommon type of glaucoma, referred to as neovascular glaucoma, happens more frequently in people with diabetes. Blood vessels grow on the iris, the colored portion of your eye. They block the flow of fluid out and raise the pressure in the eye. Neovascular glaucoma may be a difficult eye condition to treat. Laser surgery may be done to reduce the vessels. Doctors are also researching implants to help drain the fluid.
- A cataract is another eye condition people with diabetes are prone to develop. A cataract forms over the lens of your eye and causes an inability to focus on light. The lens of an eye makes it possible to see and focus on an image. Surgery is done to help people with cataracts regain clearer vision. The cloudy lens is removed and replaced by a clear man-made lens.
- People with diabetes should schedule a complete eye examination each year. The key to saving your vision to find and treat eye problems as soon as possible. Make sure to get an annual glaucoma screening from an eye doctor. Control your blood sugar and blood pressure to avoid eye issues. Use glucose meters and blood pressure cuffs to check your levels regularly.
- Research is constantly being done to better detect, treat and prevent vision loss in people who have diabetes. For example, a new laser is being used by the Truhlsen Eye Institute at the University of Nebraska Medical Center to better treat eye diseases. The advanced laser can even help prevent blindness in certain patients. Researchers are also studying drugs to help stop the retina from sending signals to the body to keep growing new blood vessels. In the future, these kinds of drugs may help patients control diabetic retinopathy and reduce the need for surgery.
Diabetes and eye issues often seem to go hand-in-hand. Maintaining proper blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels can make a big difference as well as scheduling annual eye exams. Ongoing research is being done to minimize complications such as permanent vision loss.