Diabetes is a disease which affects the blood sugar and insulin levels in the body. While it is more commonly known that patients with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing other health complications, like heart disease and strokes; diabetes can also cause serious vision problems. High blood sugar can lead to eye problems like blurry vision, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy (diabetic macular edema).
In the short term, patients with diabetes can have blurry vision for a few days, or weeks. High glucose levels can change the eye’s fluid levels and cause swelling in the tissues of the eyes. Those changes make it hard for your eyes to focus, so things can begin to appear fuzzy.
Blurred vision may also occur with the start of insulin treatment. For many patients though, as blood sugar levels stabilize, so does their vision.
Glaucoma is a disease in which abnormal blood vessels grow from the retina and damage the optic nerve. With fluid being trapped in the front of the eye, pressure builds up and can damage nerves and blood vessels; which will ultimately cause changes in vision. See the diagram to reference how glaucoma affects the eye.
According to the National Eye Institute, patients with diabetes are at double the risk of developing glaucoma than that of other adults. With glaucoma, the peripheral vision will typically start to deteriorate first, followed by the rest of your vision.
Diabetic Retinopathy & Diabetic Macular Edema
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of blindness in working-age adults in the Western World. This condition occurs when small blood vessels in the retina begin to leak blood or fluid and block blood flow. Diabetic retinopathy is related to high blood sugar levels, hence the name diabetic retinopathy.
There are two stages of diabetic retinopathy: nonproliferative and proliferative.
- Nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy occurs in the earlier stages of the disease when the weakened blood vessels first start to leak.
- Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is in the later stages of the disease when abnormal blood vessels begin to grow on the surface of the retina.
Diabetic retinopathy can also lead to other eye conditions like diabetic macular edema. Diabetic macular edema occurs when blood vessels in the retina leak fluid and cause swelling in the macula. About 1 in 10 adults who suffer from diabetic retinopathy also have diabetic macular edema as well.
Over time, diabetes can cause minor eye problems that will worsen if not properly treated. Eventually, these eye problems can even lead to permanent blindness. Reach out today if you would like to schedule an appointment with us or learn more about monitoring your retina health. Dr. Pandya services the Dallas Fort Worth community with offices in both Plano and Waxahachie, Texas.