Diabetes

How Diabetes Affects Your Eyes

By Dr. Michael L. Hopen, Ophthalmologist

Diabetes Mellitus, commonly referred to as simply diabetes, is a disease caused by excess blood sugar in the body over a period of time. Diabetes results from either the lack of insulin production or the body not responding normally to the insulin it does produce.

Diabetes is a condition that affects many tissues and organs in the body, including the eye. Some ways include:

Glasses prescription (refraction): Your prescription may be unstable if the blood sugar fluctuates too much. This will be perceived as blurry vision.

Lens: Diabetes can hasten the onset and progression of cataracts of the eye lens.

Optic Nerve: Diabetes can cause swelling and damage to the small blood vessels that nourish the optic nerve.

Retina: Diabetes can damage the small blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrition to the retina. Over time, excess blood sugar can lead to small areas of bleeding, decreased blood flow and swelling of the retina.

If swelling affects the center part of the vision, this leads to “macular edema” which may require injections and/or a laser to treat. In more advanced stages, decreased blood flow can lead to the growth of new, more fragile blood vessels that are prone to bleeding. This could ultimately lead to irreversible vision loss.

Blood sugar and blood pressure control are the most important factors in preventing diabetic damage to the eye. Frequent dilated eye exams are essential to catching diabetic eye disease early in its course. The eye exams may need to be more frequent if the eye has already been affected.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that requires a great deal of attention from both patient and physician. At the Indiana Eye Clinic, your ophthalmologist or optometrist will keep in contact with your primary care physician (or endocrinologist) to communicate about factors results of the eye exam that are critical to the health of your eye and body.

Together, we can help protect your precious sense of sight from the worst effects of diabetes.