Diabetes is a complicated disease that affects those living with it in many ways. It places new demands on not only your body, but also how you approach your health.
One area where diabetes can have a potentially disastrous impact is on your eye health. It’s often overlooked in discussion about the disease, but the potential damage that diabetes can cause to your eyes is not only real, but severe as well.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most well-known eye disease associated with diabetes, though it is not the only one. Diabetic macular edema (DME) can develop alongside retinopathy, and its impacts on your vision are no less severe. Diabetes also greatly increases the chances of two other vision-threatening conditions: cataracts and glaucoma.
Our eyes are incredibly versatile and capable organs. Unfortunately, they are also somewhat delicate and require vigilance. This is especially the case when diabetes is also in the picture.
Working together, we can minimize potential impacts to your vision and ensure your eyes remain as healthy as possible. We view our relationship as a partnership, where we each have an important role in your health.
Diabetic eye disease is the term used to group eye diseases that are related to diabetes together. This includes diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, glaucoma, and cataracts. However, unlike retinopathy and DME, cataracts and glaucoma can form in people that do not have diabetes.
Causes – Prolonged periods of high blood sugar eventually damage the capillaries in the eye, causing them to leak fluids (including blood, lipids, and other fluids) into the eye. This leakage impairs vision and ultimately damages the eye.
Types – Diabetic retinopathy is broken down into two types: non-proliferative retinopathy, and proliferative retinopathy. Proliferative retinopathy is the more severe version of the disease.
Non-proliferative retinopathy itself has several stages of increasing severity (mild, moderate, and severe), with the symptoms increasing in severity with each step.
Symptoms – Retinopathy has several tell-tale symptoms. For a better understanding of the symptoms, there are excellent vision simulators on AAO.org. Check out the non-proliferative retinopathy vision simulator and the proliferative retinopathy vision simulator.
Causes – In order to develop DME, one must already have diabetic retinopathy. DME occurs when the blood vessels in the eye leak fluid. This fluid builds up on the macula, obscuring vision.
Glaucoma – People with diabetes are 40% more likely to develop glaucoma. Glaucoma reduces your peripheral vision by damaging the optic nerve. Learn more about glaucoma.
Cataracts – People with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop cataracts. A cataract is the gradual clouding of your lens, leading to obscured vision.