“After all,” they explain, “that has nothing to do with my eyes….”
Well, this one most definitely does! Besides an optometrist being able to recognize early signs of diabetes during a comprehensive eye exam – often before any symptoms present themselves – we can also diagnose a particularly nasty condition of the eyes called “Diabetic Retinopathy”. Other conditions that diabetes can contribute to are glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic macular edema.
All of these conditions can cause low-vision problems and blindness if left undiagnosed and/or untreated. Like many conditions of the eye, damage can be slowed down, but rarely – if ever – reversed.
Diabetic Retinopathy can cause the blood vessels in the retina – the light sensitive tissue that line the back of your eye, converts this light to signals that it then sends to the optic nerve and on to your brain – to leak. Essentially bleeding into the tissue causing swelling and resulting is blurred or cloudy vision.
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:
Extended periods of high blood sugar can also affect the eye’s natural lens which, just like a camera lens, detects and focuses an image and passes it on to the retina. Fluid accumulates and changes the curve of the lens. This will also cause blurred vision. The difference being, once the sugar levels are controlled, the blurriness will generally resolve.
Diabetes is also a contributing factor in a condition known as “Neovascular Glaucoma”. This is a rare form of glaucoma that is always associated with other conditions and diabetes just happens to be one of them.
Like diabetic retinopathy, neovascular glaucoma involves your eye’s blood vessels. In this case, the ones on the iris which is what makes you blue, brown, green or hazel eyed. Here, abnormal vessels grow onto the iris which closes off the flow of the fluid in your eye and increasing the eye’s pressure. This type of glaucoma is difficult to treat and often involves laser surgery to reduce these abnormal vessels. Lasers are also instrumental in treating the blood vessels that are leaking or growing abnormally in cases of diabetic retinopathy.
This is why doctors express urgency in patients with diabetes – or who have a high risk of developing it – getting a full, comprehensive eye exam every year. Sometimes more often.
Something so simple. Something so relatively inexpensive. And it can help to prevent the irreversible loss of a sense that we often take for granted. Our eyesight. Once gone, it cannot be recovered.
We aren’t prying into your life. We aren’t judging you. When we ask these questions, it is so that we can provide you with the most comprehensive eye care available. The kind that you deserve.
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. Anyone can get diabetes. A lot can be prevented. All can be treated.
Check here to see the symptoms.