DIABETES AND THE EYE
If you have diabetes, an annual dilated comprehensive eye exam is essential in order to avoid three major eye diseases and preventable blindness. The three major eye diseases that people with diabetes may develop are cataracts, glaucoma and retinopathy.
Cataracts and Diabetes
A cataract is the clouding of the naturally clear lens of the eye. People with diabetes develop cataracts at an earlier age and the cataract progresses more rapidly. Cataract surgery in people with diabetes is the same as the rest of the population. The cloudy lens is removed, it is replaced with a clear implant and your vision is restored.
Glaucoma and Diabetes
People with diabetes may develop the common type of glaucoma called open angle glaucoma but they are more likely than other people to develop another less common form called neovascular glaucoma. In neovascular glaucoma, abnormal blood vessels grow on the iris. These blood vessels block the normal drainage of fluid from the eye causing the pressure in the eye to raise to extremely high levels. This is a very a painful disease, can be very difficult to treat and many times leads to blindness.
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in adults age 20-74. Children with insulin dependent diabetes (type 1) rarely develop complications from diabetes before puberty. The risk of developing complications from diabetes (type 1), such as diabetic retinopathy, increases the longer you have had diabetes and if your blood sugar control has not been well controlled. In a large study, it was shown that people who have tight control of their blood glucose level with an insulin pump or with multiple daily injections of insulin had a 50-75% less chance of developing diabetic retinopathy.
People with non-insulin dependent diabetes (type 2) usually have signs of eye problems when diabetes is diagnosed. Tight control of blood glucose levels in addition to control of cholesterol levels and blood pressure all contribute to slowing the progression of retinopathy and other eye problems from diabetes. Treatment of diabetic retinopathy involves laser treatment, injection of medication into the eye and surgery. In order to avoid eye problems and complications from diabetes it is imperative to have a dilated eye exam at least once a year.