Eye Problems and Diabetes

Eye problems and diabetes introduction

If you have diabetes, regular visits to your ophthalmologist for eye exams are important to avoid eye problems. High blood sugar (glucose) increases the risk of diabetes eye problems. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults age 20 to 74.

If you have eye problems and diabetes, don't buy a new pair of glasses as soon as you notice you have blurred vision. It could just be a temporary eye problem that develops rapidly with diabetes and is caused by high blood sugar levels.

High blood sugar in diabetes causes the lens of the eye to swell, which changes your ability to see. To correct this kind of eye problem, you need to get your blood sugar back into the target range (90-130 milligrams per deciliter or mg/dL before meals, and less than 180 mg/dL one to two hours after a meal). It may take as long as three months after your blood sugar is well controlled for your vision to fully get back to normal.

Blurred vision can also be a symptom of more serious eye problem with diabetes. The three major eye problems that people with diabetes may develop and should be aware of are cataracts, glaucoma, and retinopathy.

Cataracts and Diabetes

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A cataract is a clouding or fogging of the normally clear lens of the eye. The lens is what allows us to see and focus on an image just like a camera. Although anyone can get cataracts, people with diabetes get these eye problems at an earlier age than most and the condition progresses more rapidly than in people without diabetes.

If you have a cataract, there is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye that results in the inability to focus light, and your vision is impaired. Symptoms of this eye problem in diabetes include blurred or glared vision.

During cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is removed or cleaned out and replaced by a clear man-made lens.

Picture of Cataract of the Eye
Picture of Cataract of the Eye

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/12/2012

Patient Comments

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Diabetes and Eye Problems - Cataracts Question: Are you a diabetic who developed cataracts? Please share your experience?
Diabetes and Eye Problems - Retinopathy Question: Did you or someone you know develop diabetic retinopathy? What were the symptoms and what was the treatment?
Diabetes and Eye Problems - Dealing With Glaucoma Question: If you or someone you care for has diabetes and glaucoma, how have you dealt with both conditions?
Diabetes and Eye Problems - Prevention Question: If you are diabetic, what changes have you made to prevent eye problems? How often do you see an eye specialist?

Diabetic Retinopathy Symptoms

Does diabetic retinopathy have any symptoms?

Often there are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, nor is there any pain. Don't wait for symptoms. Be sure to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.

Blurred vision may occur when the macula - the part of the retina that provides sharp central vision - swells from leaking fluid. This condition is called macular edema.

If new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina, they can bleed into the eye and block vision.

What are the symptoms of proliferative retinopathy if bleeding occurs?

At first, you will see a few specks of blood, or spots, "floating" in your vision. If spots occur, see your eye care professional as soon as possible. You may need treatment before more serious bleeding occurs. Hemorrhages tend to happen more than once, often during sleep.

Sometimes, without treatment, the spots clear, and you will see better. However, bleeding can reoccur and cause severely blurred vision. You need to be examined by your eye care professional at the first sign of blurred vision, before more bleeding occurs.

If left untreated, proliferative retinopathy can cause severe vision loss and even blindness. Also, the earlier you receive treatment, the more likely treatment will be effective.

SOURCE:
National Eye Institute. Facts About Diabetic Retinopathy.

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