Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye conditions that affect people with diabetes, and all forms of diabetic eye disease have the potential to cause severe vision loss and blindness.
The blood glucose (or blood sugar), levels are too high in a person with diabetes and over time it damages their eyes. Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in American adults and the leading cause of vision impairment among working-age adults. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye, and it must be healthy to see clearly. Diabetic retinopathy damages the tiny blood vessels inside of your retina.
Diabetic macular edema is a swelling in an area of the retina called the macula, and is a consequence of diabetic retinopathy. The macula is critical for the sharp, straight-ahead vision that is used for driving, reading and recognizing faces. DME is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetic retinopathy.
Some of the symptoms may not be too noticeable at first, but they include blurry or double vision; rings, flashing lights or blank spots; dark or floating spots; pain or pressure in one or both of your eyes; or trouble seeing things out of the corners of your eyes.
Other eye problems that can happen to people with diabetes include cataracts and glaucoma. But they can be treated with appropriate therapies.
A cataract is a clouding over the lens of the eye. They tend to develop in diabetics at a younger age. Surgery helps people see clearly again.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve. When an individual has glaucoma, pressure builds up in the eye, damaging the optic nerve. Adults with diabetes have nearly double the risk of glaucoma. Eye drops or surgery can help.
According to some studies, controlling diabetes, taking medications as prescribed, staying physically active and maintaining a healthy diet, can prevent or delay vision loss.
So it’s critical that individuals with diabetes have regular eye exams. Early detection, timely treatment and corresponding follow-up care of diabetic eye disease can protect against vision loss.
William C. Womble, O.D.
1822 Huntsville Hwy., Suite D