If you have diabetes, regular visits to your eye doctor for regular exams are important to avoid eye problems. High blood sugar (glucose) increases the risk of eye problems from diabetes. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults ages 20 to 74. If you have eye problems and diabetes, don’t buy a new pair of glasses as soon as you notice you have blurred vision. It could just be a temporary eye problem that develops rapidly with diabetes and is caused by high blood sugar levels.
High blood sugar in diabetes causes the lens of the eye to swell, which changes your ability to see. To correct this kind of eye problem, you need to get your blood sugar back into the target range (70-130 milligrams per deciliter or mg/dL before meals, and less than 180 mg/dL one to two hours after a meal). It may take as long as three months after your blood sugar is well controlled for your vision to fully get back to normal.Blurred vision can also be a symptom of more serious eye problem with diabetes. The three major eye problems that people with diabetes may develop and should be aware of are cataracts, glaucoma, and retinopathy.
Cataracts and Diabetes
A cataract is a clouding or fogging of the normally clear lens of the eye. The lens is what allows us to see and focus on an image just like a camera. Although anyone can get cataracts, people with diabetes get these eye problems at an earlier age than most and the condition progresses more rapidly than in people without diabetes.
If you have a cataract, there is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye that results in the inability to focus light, and your vision is impaired. Symptoms of this eye problem in diabetes include blurred or glared vision. During cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is removed or cleaned out and replaced by a clear man-made lens.
Glaucoma and Diabetes
When fluid inside the eye does not drain properly, it can lead to excess pressure inside the eye. This results in another eye problem with diabetes called glaucoma. The increase in pressure can damage nerves and the blood vessels in the eye, causing changes in vision.
Treatment of open-angle glaucoma — the most common form of glaucoma — requires lowering the eye’s pressure by increasing the drainage of aqueous humor or decreasing the production of the fluid. Medications can accomplish both of these goals.
With open-angle glaucoma, there may be no symptoms of this eye problem at all until the disease is very advanced and there is significant vision loss. In the less common form of this eye problem, symptoms can include headaches, eye aches or pain, blurred vision, watering eyes, halos around lights, and loss of vision.
Treatment of this eye problem in diabetes can include special eye drops, laser procedures, medicine, or surgery. Surgery and laser treatments are directed at improving the eye’s aqueous drainage. You can prevent serious eye problems in diabetes problems by getting an annual glaucoma screening from your eye doctor.
People with diabetes are also more likely to get an uncommon type of glaucoma, called neovascular glaucoma. In this form of glaucoma new blood vessels grow on the iris, the colored part of the eye. These blood vessels block the normal flow of fluid out of the eye, raising the eye pressure. It is difficult to treat. One option is laser surgery to reduce the vessels. Doctors are also studying the use of implants to help drain the fluid.