The Effects of Diabetes on Eye Health

By Jeffrey Schultz on January 13, 2015

Elderly woman with blue eyes looking content after treatment for diabetic retinopathyAt Lifetime Eye Care, the practice of optometrist Jeffrey E. Schultz, we take pride in providing a comprehensive range of eye care services to patients of all ages, regardless of the complexity of their conditions. We take the time not only to diagnose and treat these conditions, but also to educate patients about their ocular health so that they understand their disorders and how best to preserve their precious vision.

Among the most common conditions we treat at Lifetime Eye Care are those associated with diabetes. During consultations between diabetic patients and Dr. Schultz at his state-of-the-art office in Cleveland, diabetes and eye health are discussed in detail. As with most eye conditions, early detection and timely treatment are essential to proper management of eye conditions associated with diabetes. This is why it is so important for patients with diabetes to visit our eye care practice regularly for thorough eye examinations.

How does diabetes affect the eyes?

People with diabetes have difficulty controlling the blood sugar (glucose) levels in their bodies. The presence of too much glucose in the blood for too long a time can cause damage to organs and blood vessels throughout the body, including the blood vessels of the eyes and the eyes, themselves.

Although diabetics with well-controlled blood glucose levels have a better chance of maintaining good eye health than diabetics without well-controlled blood glucose levels, all diabetics are at increased risk of three specific eye conditions: cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.

Cataracts and Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes are 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts than people without diabetes. They are also far more likely to develop cataracts at a younger age. A cataract forms when the eye’s natural lens becomes clouded due to the accumulation of proteins that become hardened and clump together. The only treatment for cataracts is the removal of the diseased lens and subsequent replacement with an artificial intraocular lens, or IOL. If left untreated, cataracts will eventually lead to blindness.

Glaucoma and Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes are 40 percent more likely to develop glaucoma than those who do not have diabetes. Glaucoma refers to the build-up of pressure in the eye due to the inability of fluids within the eye to drain properly. Although there are several ways to manage glaucoma, including medicinal therapies and surgery, there is no cure for the condition. In its most severe form, glaucoma results in blindness.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a disease marked by damage to the retinal blood vessels. It occurs in four stages:

  • Mild non-proliferative retinopathy: Tiny pockets of balloon-like swelling occur in the retina’s blood vessels.
  • Moderate non-proliferative retinopathy: Some of the blood vessels that provide nourishment to the retina become blocked.
  • Severe non-proliferative retinopathy: Deprived of vital nutrients, the retina signals the body that it should grow new blood vessels.
  • Proliferative retinopathy: The body grows new retinal blood vessels; however, they are thin, fragile, and abnormal. They can easily leak, and often do, causing vision impairment and possible blindness.

If caught in the first three of its four phases, diabetic retinopathy may be managed without the need for surgery. If left untreated, it will eventually result in blindness.

Learn More about Diabetes and Eye Health

To learn more about diabetes and eye health, please contact Lifetime Eye Care today.

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