Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that results in elevated levels of glucose in the blood either due to inadequate insulin production or because the body's mechanism to make use of insulin is disrupted.
The risk of vision loss is increased when diabetes is not treated. Diabetic eye disease can come in a number of forms.
One of the primary ways that diabetes can affect your eye is by damaging the blood vessels that lead to the retina. This is one of the most common causes of vision loss in adults and is called diabetic retinopathy.
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 irreversible vision loss. While controlling diabetes reduces the chances of developing diabetic retinopathy, it does not entirely eliminate the risk and consequently it is strongly recommended to have your eyes checked annually if you have diabetes.
Daily changes in glucose levels, largely present in situations where diabetes is untreated, can affect the lens of the eye. Since blood sugar levels have an impact on your lens's ability to maintain sharp focus, this can result in blurry vision that varies with glucose levels.
Diabetics have a greater chance to develop cataracts, a condition in which the lens of the eye becomes clouded, which impacts vision. Cataracts are a common condition that comes with aging, but develops earlier in people with diabetes.
Glaucoma, which is a result of elevated pressure in the optic nerve, can cause blindness. People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop glaucoma.
Having your diabetes in control is the best form of prevention for any of the diabetic eye diseases. In addition to maintaining proper blood sugar levels by means of diet and/or insulin, it's important to exercise and refrain from smoking. Since eye damage is often not noticeable until damage has occurred it is critical to have yearly retinal exams with an eye doctor to identify any possible damage early on. While often vision loss caused by diabetic eye disease of any kind is permanent, early detection and treatment can often stop additional damage and disease progression.