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Diabetes and the eye

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Diabetes is the number one cause of irreversible blindness in people age 20-74 years.

5800 Americans lose their sight because of diabetes annually.

The Primary part of the eye affected by diabetes is the retina.

Changes in the retina caused by diabetes are collectively known as diabetic retinopathy. Abnormal blood glucose (sugar) levels cause changes in the walls of small capillary blood vessels. These small blood vessels walls start bulging out to form microaneurysms, and leakage of fluid (called edema) and blood (called hemorrhages) may occur in the retina.

Diabetic retinopathy usually occurs as a result of long standing diabetes or when there is inconsistent control of the blood glucose levels.

Diabetes also increases the risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma. A cataract is the progressive clouding of the crystalline lens inside the eye which leads to blurred, distorted or hazy vision. Glaucoma is a disease where the pressure in the eye increases and causes damage to the optic nerve leading to permanent visual field loss. If left untreated glaucoma can lead to tunnel vision.


Important things to remember:

  • Early diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy is vital, so schedule yearly check ups with an eye care practitioner, especially if you are prone to diabetis.
  • Always aim for strict control of blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels as this reduces the risk of diabetes-related sight loss.
  • Don’t wait until your vision has deteriorated to have an eye test.