Patients with diabetes are at a higher risk for developing eye conditions because a high blood sugar level can damage blood vessels in the eye. Over 40 percent of patients diagnosed with diabetes develop some form of eye disease as a result. These conditions can cause blood or fluid to leak from the retina or new blood vessels to grow on the surface of the retina which can lead to significant damages to your vision and overall quality of life.
Diabetic eye conditions can be detected through a comprehensive eye exam. The exam involves a visual acuity test to measure vision at various distances and dilating drops to examine the structures of the eye for any signs of disease.
Eye exams should be performed at least once a year or as soon as any potential problems are detected. Early detection is the strongest protection against diabetic eye diseases. You can also minimize your risk of developing diabetic eye disease by keeping your blood sugar and blood pressure under control, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly.
Your eyes can be affected by several different eye diseases related to diabetes. Some of these conditions include:
- Diabetic retinopathy: the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in adults. Diabetic retinopathy develops as a result of changes in blood sugar levels or simply the presence of long-term diabetes. Most patients don’t develop this condition until they have had diabetes for at least 10 years. If high blood sugar levels cause blood vessels in the retina to leak blood or fluid, the retina may become swollen and form deposits.
- Proliferative diabetic retinopathy: the most advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy. It is classified by the growth of new blood vessels on the retina. These blood vessels are abnormal and fragile, and are susceptible to leaking blood and fluid onto the retina, which can cause severe vision loss and even blindness.
- Macular edema: a serious condition that can occur at any stage of diabetic retinopathy. It involves a buildup of fluid in the macula, the light-sensitive part of the retina that allows us to see objects with great detail. Macular edema can cause difficulty reading or doing close work, and can often greatly affect a patient’s quality of life by interfering with regular activities.