Diabetes and Your Eyes

By susand on June 03, 2016

Eye problems are among the most significant complications of diabetes, and eye problems from diabetes are the most common cause of blindness in people of working age. Approximately 1,348,305 people in Pennsylvania, or 12.1% of the population, have diabetes.  Of these, an estimated 325,000 have diabetes but don’t know it, greatly increasing their health risk.  In addition, 3,505,000 people in Pennsylvania, 35.8% of the adult population, have prediabetes with blood glucose levels higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.  Every year an estimated 78,000 people in Pennsylvania are diagnosed with diabetes.

Diabetes can affect the eyes in a number of ways. The most damaging condition occurs when the fine network of blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive inner lining of the back of the eye, leak fluid. This is known as diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and often doesn’t have any symptoms in the early stages. As this diabetic retinopathy progresses, blood vessels can become blocked and prevent areas of the retina from receiving blood and nutrients. Damaged blood vessels can also swell and leak fluid into the macula (which is responsible for sharp, central vision), leading to diabetic macular edema.  This swelling can lead to vision loss and blindness.  If you are diabetic, it is very important that you have an annual comprehensive eye exam at Ophthalmology Physicians & Surgeons to check for retinopathy. 



We also suggest on-going screenings for retinopathy. 

Cataracts in people with diabetes can also develop earlier and progress more rapidly in people with diabetes than in other people. Untreated diabetes may also make cause frequent or noticeable changes to your eyesight. If you notice any problems with your eyesight you should immediately call to schedule an appointment with your eye doctor at Ophthalmology Physicians & Surgeons for a comprehensive eye exam.

Diabetes is a disease that increases an individual’s risk for illnesses and other diseases. Serious eye problems are less likely if the diabetes is well controlled with medication, diet and exercise in its early stages. If problems are detected and treated early, most sight loss from diabetic eye disease can be prevented.

Remember, early stages of diabetic retinopathy often present no overt symptoms; or, they may present symptoms that seem to go away after a period of time, leading to a false sense that nothing is wrong. With regular eye exams, prevention measures, and treatment options available at Ophthalmology Physicians & Surgeons, you can go a long way toward decreasing the risk of progressive vision loss and serious, life-altering vision impairment.

Sources include: - 2012 diagnosed and 2010 new cases of diabetes estimates are per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Diabetes Atlas National Surveillance System. - Estimates for 2012 undiagnosed diabetes, prediabetes and costs of diabetes are per Dall, Timothy M., et al., ”The Economic Burden of Elevated Blood Glucose Levels in 2012”, Diabetes Care, December 2014, vol. 37. 

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