Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that results in increased blood glucose (sugar) levels either due to insufficient production of insulin or because the body's mechanism to utilize insulin is disrupted.
Diabetes can damage your eyes in a number of ways, especially when the disease is not being treated.
The most threatening diabetic eye disease is one that can lead to destruction of the blood vessels that lead to the retina. This is called diabetic retinopathy and is one of the most prominent causes of blindness in adults.
The retina is the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye, which is an essential component for proper vision. Retinal damage can cause permanent blindness. While controlling diabetes reduces the chances of developing diabetic retinopathy, it does not entirely eliminate the risk and consequently it is essential to have your eyes examined every year if you have diabetes.
Glucose levels that change periodically can also impact eyesight. Because glucose levels are associated with the ability of your lens to maintain sharp focus, this can result in blurred vision that varies with blood sugar levels.
Cataracts, or a clouding of the lens of the eye, can also develop as a result of living with diabetes. Even though many people develop cataracts as they age, the chance of having the condition earlier is increased in individuals with diabetes.
Glaucoma, which is a result of elevated pressure in the optic nerve, can lead to vision loss. Diabetics are twice as likely to develop glaucoma.
The best prevention for diabetic eye disease is for diabetics to control their blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, to eat properly, exercise and refrain from smoking. Since eye damage is often not noticeable until damage has occurred it is imperative to schedule yearly eye exams with an eye doctor to detect any possible problems as early as possible. Even though it is common that any loss of sight that results from any of these conditions cannot be restored, further damage can be stopped by early diagnosis.