You may be aware of the damage diabetes can have on your body and mind, but this condition can have drastic consequences for your ocular health. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, and one in three people living with diabetes show early signs of eye disease.
Regular eye examinations at Eastside Eye Specialist Care can help diagnose and treat diabetic eye diseases early to maintain your vision. There are four linked to diabetes: diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic macular edema. Regular dilated eye exams and proper management using the diabetes ABCs (A1C glucose testing, blood pressure, and cholesterol) can prevent permanent vision loss and blindness.
The early stages of diabetic retinopathy cause tiny blood vessels in your retina — the light-sensitive cells at the back of your eyes that translate light into images through the optic nerve — to weaken, bulge and leak. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the late stage of this disease in which those damaged blood vessels close off, causing weaker blood vessels to grow and cause scarring. The retinal tissues may detach and cause permanent vision loss.
Diabetic macular edema is often caused by diabetic retinopathy. Macular edema happens when the center of the retina, called the macula, experiences damage caused by abnormal blood vessel growth, leakage and fluid accumulation in the retina. The escaping blood and fluid make the macula swell, leading to vision disturbances and blindness.
People with diabetes are more likely to develop glaucoma, which happens when fluid doesn’t drain correctly inside your eye, causing a buildup of pressure that harms the optic nerve. Neovascular glaucoma is a rare condition more prevalent in diabetic patients that causes blood vessel growth on the iris and increases eye pressure by blocking the flow of fluid. Open-angle glaucoma may show no symptoms until severe vision loss, but annual eye exams can identify early signs of glaucoma.
Cataracts are twice as common in patients with diabetes, and you’re more likely to get them earlier in life. These form when the natural eye lens becomes cloudy or smudged and may be caused by high glucose levels. Luckily, this eye disease is highly treatable with cataract surgery, which removes the clouded lens and replaces it with an artificial lens.
Symptoms of Diabetic Eye Disease
Your risk of diabetic eye disease increases the longer you have the condition. Untreated high blood pressure and glucose levels are the largest risk factor. Contact our ophthalmologist, Dr. Joshua Hann, to schedule an appointment if you notice any of these symptoms:
- Frequent vision changes
- Dark spots
- Spotted vision loss
- Poor colour vision
- “Floaters” or dark strings
- Light flashes
Temporary blurred vision is a common symptom of high blood sugar and often stabilises within a few weeks (perhaps months) of getting your glucose levels back under control. That may also happen when you’re changing diabetes medications or transitioning to new care.
Treatments for diabetic eye disease involve medications, surgery, laser treatments or a combination. You may need additional eye exams as part of your diabetes management. Full dilated eye exams are often the only way to diagnose and treat these diseases before they cause vision loss.
Contact Eastside Eye Specialist Care today to schedule your annual dilated eye exam by calling (07) 3153 1000, or fill out our contact form.