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Diabetes Awareness: The Eye and Vision

Diabetes is a disorder that causes a disruption in the metabolic process that causes increased levels of glucose in the blood either due to inadequate insulin production or because the body does not properly utilize the insulin it produces.

The risk of eye damage is increased when diabetes is not controlled. Diabetic eye disease can actualize in a number of forms.

Diabetic retinopathy refers to one of the primary causes of blindness in adults. This condition occurs when excessive blood sugar levels cause the blood vessels in the retina to suffer blockages. The blockages lead to leaks in the blood vessels which can cause irreversible damage to the retina. Frequently a process called neovascularization takes place in which new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina, which may also leak, resulting in further damage.

The retina is the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye, which is essential for proper vision. Damage to the retina can result in irreversible vision loss. While controlling diabetes reduces the chances of developing diabetic retinopathy, it does not completely eliminate the risk and therefore it is crucial to have your eyes examined each year if you have diabetes.

Blood sugar levels that change periodically can also affect eyesight. Due to the fact that glucose levels are associated with your lens's ability to maintain sharp focus, this can result in blurry vision that varies with glucose levels.

Cataracts, or a clouding of the lens of the eye, can also develop in diabetics. Even though cataracts are common in people over a certain age, the risk of developing the condition at a younger age is increased in diabetics.

Glaucoma, which is caused by increased interoptic fluid pressure, can lead to vision loss. People with diabetes are two times more likely to develop glaucoma.

The best prevention for conditions related to diabetes is control of glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, to eat properly, exercise and refrain from smoking. Since eye damage is often not noticeable until damage has occurred it is critical to have annual eye exams with an optometrist to find any damage early on. While it is common that any loss of sight that results from diabetic eye disease of any kind cannot be restored, further damage can be prevented by early diagnosis.

As part of our COVID-19 protocol we are now requiring our patients to undergo an Optomap Retinal exam in lieu of dilation to evaluate the inside lining of the eye. This procedure is being performed to lessen the time spent in our office. There is an additional fee of $35.00 for this test which is often not covered by insurance plans as it is considered a health screening. However, it can be billed to a medical insurance plan if there is a retinal disease diagnosis. Please speak to our staff for more information.