Diabetes threatens the health of numerous organs of the body, including the eyes. In fact, diabetics are more likely to develop eye problems than nondiabetics. If left untreated, these eye problems, collectively referred to as diabetic eye disease, can lead to blindness.
Charleston ophthalmologist specialist Dr. Kerry Solomon shares more information about diabetic eye disease in this blog post.
Understanding How Diabetes Affects the Eyes
People with diabetes have difficulty controlling their blood sugar levels. High amounts of sugar in the blood can damage blood vessels, including those in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue located in the back of the eye. If the damaged blood vessels in the retina leak blood or fluid, diabetic retinopathy can occur. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye complication caused by diabetes and usually begins with few noticeable symptoms. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness. Diabetic retinopathy can also lead to another eye complication, known as diabetic macular edema, which occurs when fluid builds up in the macula (the central region of the retina). Moreover, diabetics are at increased risk of developing glaucoma, a serious eye disease that affects the optic nerve that transmits information from the eye to the brain. Glaucoma is often referred to as the “Silent Thief of Sight” because it gradually damages the optic nerve and causes vision loss. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to blindness.
In addition, diabetics are 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts than nondiabetics. A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, the part of the eye that focuses light onto the retina. While cataracts are usually associated with age-related changes in the eye, they can also be a result of high sugar levels in the eye that can cause the natural lens to swell, affecting clarity of vision. Uncontrolled diabetes can also cause a substance called sorbitol to collect in the lens. This in turn causes the lens to become less clear and more opaque, eventually leading to the formation of a cataract. Common symptoms of cataracts include blurry vision, double vision and glare.
Treating Diabetic Eye Disease
If you are diabetic, it is imperative that you stay on top of your health to minimize your risk of serious vision loss and damage. While there is no cure for diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema or glaucoma, these diseases are much easier to manage in their early stages.
If you have cataracts and have difficulty completing everyday tasks (i.e., reading, driving) as a result, it may be time to have them removed. Cataract surgery has a high rate of success and is one of the safest operations performed today. During surgery, the clouded natural lens is removed and replaced with an artificial intraocular lens, restoring clear vision. The surgery is completed in less than 30 minutes and recovery time is minimal. Most patients notice an improvement in their vision the day after surgery.
To learn more about cataracts or cataract surgery, please schedule a consultation with board certified ophthalmologist Dr. Solomon. Contact his office by calling (843) 881-3937 or filling out our contact form online.