How Vision and Diabetes Are Connected
Approximately 16 million Americans have diabetes, and at least 5 million are at risk for eye diseases with diabetes because they don’t know they have the disease. With this lack of education regarding eye diseases and the interaction of vision and diabetes, 12,000 to 24,000 individuals lose their sight each year due to the effects of diabetes on eyes.
Eye problems and diabetes go hand in hand because of the way Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes change the body’s use of glucose, or blood sugar. The body regulates and controls glucose using insulin, but if the body doesn’t produce enough insulin (type 1) or cells become insulin resistant (type 2), too much glucose can be in the blood for too long. This excess of sugar in the blood can cause damage to several parts of the body, including the small blood vessels of the eye, which is how vision and diabetes directly affect each other.
Diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma are a group of eye diseases called Diabetic Eye Disease that affects individuals with diabetes. The most common effects of diabetes on eyes is diabetic retinopathy, or retinopathy with diabetes, and is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among working-age people in the United States.
Nearly all patients with type 1 diabetes develop diabetic retinopathy, and almost 25% of those with type 2 diabetes are found to have retinopathy with diabetes at the time that diabetes is diagnosed.
What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?
When it comes to vision and diabetes, diabetic retinopathy is the major preventable cause of blindness in adults in the United States. Retinopathy with diabetes harms the blood vessels in the retina. The retina is at the back of the eye and sends pictures of what you see to the brain. Diabetes causes the blood vessels to leak blood components into the retina, causing damage to the delicate retinal cells and eye problems. The longer you have diabetes, the likelier you are to get diabetic retinopathy. A complication of diabetic retinopathy is macular edema. A diabetic eye exam is the best way to prevent the development of eye diseases like retinopathy with diabetes and to spot any other effects of diabetes on your eyes.