How Does Diabetes Affect the Eyes?

Diabetes is a metabolic condition that results in too much sugar in the blood. It can be very serious and include symptoms such as increased thirst, frequent urination, hunger and fatigue. But there’s something else that many people don’t realize, and that’s the impact that diabetes can have on the eyes.

When you have diabetes, you need to visit the eye doctor on a regular basis to avoid eye problems such as blurred vision, cataracts, glaucoma and retinopathy. Diabetes is, in fact, the leading cause of blindness in adults between the of ages 20 to 74. Fortunately, regular eye checkups and proactive care can help you avoid most serious eye conditions.


How the Eye Works

To understand how diabetes affects the eyes, you must first understand how the eye works.

The eye is a ball that is covered with an outer membrane. The covering in front is the cornea, and it’s responsible for focusing light while protecting the eye. Once light passes through the cornea, it travels through the anterior chamber, the pupil and then another lens that performs more focusing.

Finally, light passes through another chamber in the center of the eye that is filled with fluid and hits the back of the eye (the retina). The retina converts these strikes into electric signals that the brain receives and makes sense of.

It’s amazing how this all works in a matter of milliseconds! As part of this process, there are blood vessels in and behind the retina that nourish the macula, the part of the eye that allows us to see fine detail.


Eye Complications

When you have diabetes, you are more at risk for the following:

● Cataracts: People with diabetes are 60 percent more at risk of developing cataracts.

● Glaucoma: People with diabetes are 40 percent more likely to develop glaucoma.

● Retinopathy: Diabetic retinopathy includes all disorders of the retina that are caused by diabetes. The two main types include nonproliferative retinopathy and proliferative retinopathy.


See an Eye Doctor Regularly

Because it’s possible to damage your retina before you notice any symptoms, see your eye specialist annually if you have diabetes. Managing your diabetes is also important, as people who manage their blood sugar levels are less likely to have retinopathy. Finally, choose an eye specialist that is experienced in diabetic eye care. Specialists know what to look for and can handle more severe cases, such as detached retinas.