How Uncontrolled Blood Sugar Can Destroy Your Eyes
The Impact of Diabetes on Eye Health
On its own, diabetes is a very serious condition. Over 29 million Americans suffer from this disease, which is a chronic metabolic problem in which the body’s pancreas cannot produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells do not respond properly to the insulin it produces. This matters so much because insulin is a crucial hormone that enables the body to turn glucose (sugar) into energy, as well as to store all the glucose it’s not immediately using. When the body is unable to use or store all the glucose that it takes in, the glucose just keeps circulating in the blood, which is why an important component of diabetes management is consistently testing blood sugar.
In addition to the negative impact on the rest of the body (poor circulation, excessive urination, kidney problems, risk of stroke, and more), the elevated levels of blood sugar associated with diabetes have the potential for serious impact on a patient’s eye health.
For instance, glaucoma, a condition in which poor circulation leads to a buildup of pressure in the eye, is 40% more likely in diabetic patients than it is in non-diabetic patients. This condition can lead to loss of peripheral vision, blurry vision, and irreversible vision loss, including permanent blindness. Diabetics also have a 60% higher chance of contracting cataracts in the eye, which are cloudy growths that impede vision and can also lead to permanent blindness.
Additionally, patients with diabetes are at increased risk for a list of conditions that all fall under the heading of diabetic retinopathy. In general, retinopathy refers to malfunctions of the retina, which is the thin lining at the back of the eye that transmits visual stimuli to the brain via the optic nerve. Retinopathy includes the following conditions:
- Nonproliferative retinopathy, in which the blood vessels in the eye leak, causing swelling that damages the eye.
- Proliferative retinopathy, in which new blood vessels and scar tissue actually form within the eye, disrupting vision.
- Macular edema, in which the portion of the eye responsible for central vision and focus swells with fluid, rendering vision blurry and unstable.
- Retinal detachment, in which the retina can actually be dislodged from the wall of the eye by the forces caused by the conditions above.
As you can see, diabetes can lead to a list of other problems, which means that patients with diabetes should have a vested interest in learning to manage their diabetes effectively. Speak to your doctor today about the necessary diet, exercise, and treatment regimen to minimize your risk of serious visual complications stemming from your diabetes diagnosis. When was the last time you had an eye exam? Let us know below (we hope it was recently!)
Dr. Jenna Zigler
- Dr. Jenna Zigler