Diabetes is a metabolic disease that results in increased levels of glucose in the blood either due to inadequate insulin production or because the body does not efficiently make use of the insulin produced (depending on the type of diabetes).
There are a few ways that diabetes, particularly when it is uncontrolled, can cause damage to your eyes.
One of the most serious ways that diabetes can affect your eye is by damaging the blood vessels that lead to the retina. This is called diabetic retinopathy and is a leading cause of blindness in adults.
The retina is the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye, which is essential for proper vision. Retinal damage can result in permanent vision loss. While controlling diabetes reduces the likelihood of developing diabetic retinopathy, it does not entirely eliminate the risk and therefore it is crucial to have a yearly retinal exam.
Glucose levels that vary periodically can also affect vision. Due to the fact that blood sugar levels have an impact on the ability of your lens to focus, this can result in blurred vision that fluctuates with blood sugar levels.
Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes clouded and can also develop in diabetics. Even though many people develop cataracts as they age, the chance of developing cataracts younger is higher in diabetics.
Glaucoma risk in individuals with diabetes is twice that of the rest of the population. Glaucoma is an elevation in interoptic fluid pressure leading to optic nerve damage and eventually vision loss.
The optimal prevention for diabetic eye disease is for diabetics to control their glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, to eat properly, exercise and refrain from smoking. Since eye damage is often not noticeable until damage has occurred it is imperative to have regular annual checkups with an eye doctor to find any developing problems as early as possible. While it is common that vision loss caused by diabetic eye disease in any form cannot be reversed, early detection and treatment can often slow further damage.