Diabetes can affect the entire body with serious consequences on your vision, too.
Learn how diabetes can affect your vision and can cause blindness.
- Cataracts: Cataracts are when the lens in the eye becomes cloudy.
When we are born, the lens is a translucent structure and is crystal clear. However, as we age, the lens starts to opacify (become cloudy) as early as the 50s.
When you have diabetes, this opacification or cloudiness of the lens occurs at an earlier age.
- Glaucoma: Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve and is associated with elevated pressures within the eye in most cases. With glaucoma, patients typically do not have pain or other symptoms until it is too late.
Glaucoma is one of these eye conditions that slowly and silently robs your vision. Typically, patients with glaucoma begin to lose their peripheral or side vision, and the loss slowly closes in, leaving some patients blind.
Sadly, once you lose your vision, then it cannot be reversed.
Patients who have a family history of glaucoma should be seen by their eye doctor at least once a year to determine whether they’re at a higher risk of this condition. Patients with diabetes are at a higher risk for developing glaucoma, so they should make sure to get their eye exams.
- Diabetic Retinopathy: This condition is the most serious issue affecting the eye because this can cause irreversible vision loss. There are different stages of diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetes causes decreased blood flow to the retina, a condition called ischemia, and this can cause growth of abnormal blood vessels, which significantly bleed and leak fluid, referred to as edema, in the retina, which is diabetic retinopathy. Fortunately, ophthalmologists can treat this condition with newer medications injected in the eye.
- Blurred Vision: Fluctuations in vision throughout the day might signal that blood-sugar levels are elevated suggestive of diabetes. Elevated sugar levels can get trapped in the lens of the eye, causing water to enter the lens, leading to swelling and ultimately blurred vision.
This warrants seeing your primary care physician to be screened for diabetes by a simple blood test.
(Dr. Robert Melendez wants to help protect people’s vision and recommends that you see your optometrist or ophthalmologist at least once per year. He is an area ophthalmologist, and founder and CEO of Juliette Eye Institute in Albuquerque. He has also been a clinical assistant professor at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center since 2005. He lives in Corrales.)