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How Diabetes Can Affect Your Eyes

If you have diabetes, your eyesight is one of the main factors at risk. Diabetes-related eye problems are the leading cause of blindness in American adults according to the National Eye Institute. Blurry or hazy vision could be the first sign of diabetes, and diabetes-related issues are often at the root of many serious eye conditions. Always talk to your doctor if you experience any sudden changes in your vision.

Testing Blood Sugar

How Diabetes Affects Your Eyes

  • High/Low Blood Sugar: Irregular blood sugar levels will cause swelling of the eye lens leading to temporary blurred vision. Once the glucose levels are back in the normal range, the blurred vision will go away. However, too much glucose in the bloodstream will damage blood vessels and nerves leading to more serious and permanent eye conditions.
  • High Blood Pressure: People are twice as likely to experience high blood pressure if they have diabetes. The heart has to pump harder than usual because the arteries have an increased resistance against the blood flow. Since diabetes damages your small blood vessels, the walls of the blood vessels stiffen causing increased pressure. High blood pressure levels can eventually lead to heart disease, stroke and serious vision diseases if it is not controlled.

Diabetic Eye Diseases

Cataracts
Too much sugar in your blood can build up on the lens and lead to cataracts which occur when a normally clear eye lens becomes cloudy over time. Anyone can get cataracts, but people with diabetes develop them earlier in life and have them worsen faster because of high blood sugar.
Glaucoma
Glaucoma occurs when there is high pressure to the eye and can result in the loss of nerve tissue and vision loss. The type of glaucoma that is caused by diabetes is called neovascular glaucoma. High sugar levels can damage the blood vessels in your retina and eventually form new ones. If these new blood vessels grow on the iris, you will have increased eye pressure leading to glaucoma.
Macular Edema
The macula is the light-sensitive center of the retina that sends clear images to the brain, but macular edema will make those images hazy. High blood pressure from diabetes will cause your blood vessels to bulge and leak into the macula making it swell and resulting in fuzzy vision.
Diabetic Retinopathy
An abundance of sugar in the blood will block and cut off the blood vessels that lead to the retina resulting in diabetic retinopathy. The eye will then attempt to form new abnormal blood vessels on the retina’s surface. The longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to develop diabetic retinopathy.

Pay attention to your blood sugar and blood pressure levels as well as any vision changes before they possibly worsen. As always, contact your eye doctor if any issues or questions arise.

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