How does Diabetes affect my eyes?
Diabetes is a disease that profoundly affects many areas of your body, including your eyes. It increases your risk for eye conditions, such as glaucoma and cataracts. The primary concern for eye health in people with diabetes is the development of diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that develops when the blood vessels in your retina become damaged. The retina is the light-sensitive portion of the back of your eye. As the damage worsens, you may begin losing your vision. Your eyesight may become blurry, less intense, and begin to disappear. This condition can affect people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The longer you live with diabetes, the more likely you are to develop complications like diabetic retinopathy. This is why annual comprehensive eye examinations along with adopting lifestyle changes and learning to manage diabetes is so important.
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
In its earliest stages, diabetic retinopathy may cause no symptoms. The initial symptoms may be barely noticeable or mild. Over time, the condition can worsen and lead to partial and then complete blindness. You should see your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:
Floaters, or dots and dark strings, in your field of vision
Dark or empty areas in your field of vision
Vision changes that seem to fluctuate
Altered color vision
Partial or total vision loss
Diabetic retinopathy most often affects both eyes at the same time and in equal measure. If you’re experiencing issues with only one eye, it doesn’t mean you don’t have diabetic retinopathy. However, it might indicate another eye issue. Make an appointment for a comprehensive eye examination to find an appropriate treatment plan.
The buildup of excess sugar in your blood can lead to a number of health issues. In your eyes, too much glucose can damage the tiny vessels that supply blood to your retina. Over time, this damage may block your blood flow.
Chronic damage to retinal blood vessels affects your vision. When your blood flow is diminished, your eye attempts to fix the situation by growing new blood vessels. The process of growing new blood vessels is called neovascularization. These vessels aren’t as effective or as strong as the original ones. They may leak or rupture, which can negatively impact your vision.
Diabetic retinopathy is a concern for anyone who has diabetes. There are additional risk factors for developing diabetic retinopathy. Women who are pregnant and have diabetes may experience more issues with diabetic retinopathy than women who have diabetes and aren’t pregnant. Your doctor may suggest that you have additional eye exams during your pregnancy.
The longer you have diabetes, the greater your risk of complications, including diabetic retinopathy. In addition, your risks for developing complications are higher if your diabetes isn’t under control. Strict glycemic control is the most effective tool in preventing diabetic retinopathy. Early detection and working closely with your doctor to manage your diabetes is important.
Other medical conditions or diseases may also increase your risk of developing retinopathy. They include high blood pressure, heart disease, and high cholesterol. African-Americans and Hispanics have a greater risk of developing diabetic retinopathy than the general population. People with diabetes who smoke are more likely to develop retinopathy.
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