Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may experience as a complication of the disease. November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness month, so we will share more information about diabetic eye disease, including symptoms and how to prevent it, in this blog.
Types of Diabetic Eye Disease
Types of diabetic eye disease include diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts. The longer a person has diabetes, the greater the risk for diabetic eye disease, and once vision is lost, it often cannot be restored.
Diabetic retinopathy is a condition in which high blood sugar causes damage to blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. In its early stages, diabetic retinopathy may cause no symptoms or only mild vision problems. But it can get worse and lead to vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common form of diabetic eye disease and is a leading cause of blindness in American adults.
If you have diabetes, it’s important to have regular comprehensive dilated eye exams so your doctor can check for signs of diabetic retinopathy and treat it early. With prompt treatment, you can often prevent or slow vision loss from diabetic retinopathy.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve—the bundle of nerve fibers that transmits images from your eyes to your brain—and can lead to vision loss and blindness. The optic nerve is made up of many individual nerve fibers (axons). Glaucoma occurs when these axons die, causing permanent damage to the optic nerve and resulting in vision loss.
People with diabetes are more likely to develop glaucoma than people who don’t have diabetes. African Americans with diabetes are especially at risk for developing glaucoma. That’s why it’s important for people with diabetes to get regular comprehensive dilated eye exams so their doctor can check for signs of glaucoma and treat it early if necessary.
A cataract forms when changes in the lens of your eye make it cloudy. Diabetes can cause cataracts or make them worse if you already have them. Most cataracts occur when you get older, but cataracts associated with diabetes typically form earlier in life and tend to progress more rapidly than other cataracts.
As many as half of all people with diabetes will develop a cataract by age 60, even if their blood sugar is under control. And people with diabetes are two to five times more likely to develop cataracts than people without diabetes.
How to Prevent Diabetic Eye Disease
Get your eyes checked regularly
People with diabetes should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Diabetic retinopathy may not have any noticeable symptoms in the early stages, so the only way to catch it early on is through a comprehensive eye exam. Early detection, timely treatment, and
Control your ABCs – A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol
High cholesterol and high blood pressure can damage blood vessels throughout your body—including those in your eyes! Keeping these numbers under control helps reduce your risk for developing diabetic retinopathy and other types of diabetic eye disease.
Smoking doubles your risk for developing cataracts and triples your risk for developing diabetic retinopathy compared to nonsmokers with diabetes. If you smoke and have diabetes, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health—and your vision!
Eat a healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet helps you control your blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy weight—both of which are important for preventing diabetic eye disease. A healthy diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources such as fish and poultry.
Exercise can help lower blood sugar levels and help you maintain a healthy weight.
During Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, we want to raise awareness about the importance of getting regular comprehensive dilated eye exams—not just for those with diabetes, but for everyone! Eye exams can help catch diabetic eye disease early so it can be treated before it leads to vision loss or blindness.
The doctors at Spring House Eye Associates provide diabetic eye exams. Schedule an appointment for an eye exam today!