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Ask An Ophthalmologist: What’s The Link Between Diabetes And Eyesight

diabetic eye diseaseWhile most people understand that diabetes affects blood sugar levels, many are unaware that the disease also impacts eyesight. In fact, diabetic eye disease is a leading cause of blindness in the US.

Diabetic eye disease encompasses a group of eye conditions caused by diabetes, including:

  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Diabetic macular edema (DME)
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma

All types and stages of diabetic eye disease have the potential to cause severe vision loss and blindness. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and is a leading cause of blindness among working-age adults.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood glucose levels damage blood vessels of the eyes, specifically those in the retina, which lines the back of the eye and detects light. Permanent vision loss occurs when the blood vessels in the retina become damaged. There are two types of diabetic retinopathy—background diabetic retinopathy, also known as non-proliferative retinopathy, and proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic macular edema (DME) is a consequence of diabetic retinopathy that causes swelling in the part of the retina called the macula. In addition, according to the National Eye Institute adults with diabetes are 2-5 times more likely to develop cataracts and twice as likely to develop glaucoma.

Diagnosis & Treatment

There are no symptoms of diabetic eye disease until vision loss occurs, which is why people with diabetes should get a comprehensive eye exam at least once a year. A comprehensive eye exam allows the ophthalmologist to check the retina for changes in the blood vessels, changes in the lens, swelling of the macula, and damage to nerve tissue.

Early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up care of diabetic eye disease can protect against vision loss. Controlling diabetes by taking medications as prescribed, exercising, and eating a healthy diet can prevent or delay vision loss.

If caught before vision is damaged, diabetic eye disease can be treated with laser therapy. Unfortunately, once you have lost some or all of your vision, it is very hard to get it back.

Baptist Eye Surgeons is an ophthalmological practice in Knoxville, TN, and Morristown, TN, dedicated to providing quality eye care to patients whose needs range from routine comprehensive eye examinations to treatment for vision loss from diabetic eye disease. To meet our doctors and learn more about our specialities, visit our website or give us a call at 865-579-3920 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

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