As of 2010, diabetes affects 25.8 million Americans, or 8.3 percent of the U.S. population. One common issue that accompanies diabetes is eye problems, ranging from minor defects to blindness. According to the American Diabetes Association, common eye ailments of diabetics include glaucoma, cataracts, and retinopathy, all of which can escalate into a serious eye issue. While this news may sound disheartening, you can decrease your chances of contracting a serious vision condition if you follow a few eye care rules.
How The Eye Works
Your eyes are a ball that is covered by an outer membrane that protects it from most trauma and bacteria. The covering in the front of the eye is a clear and curved membrane called the cornea. Your cornea focuses light that enters and also protects the inner eye. The light that passes the cornea goes through the anterior chamber and to the pupil, then through a lens for further focusing. The retina records the image and the brain receives and decodes it into something you can recognize.
Common Conditions for Diabetics
With the eye being such a complex organ that relies so heavily on proper blood flow, there are a number of conditions that can arise from diabetic complications.
According to the American Diabetic Association, people with diabetes are 60 percent more likely to develop this eye condition. Cataracts often develop faster in diabetic patients and tend to affect patients at a younger age. To slow the progression of mild cataracts, sunglasses with glare-control lenses can be used; however, if cataracts begin to significantly impact your vision, see a doctor immediately to learn about potential solutions.
This term is used for all disorders of the retina that can be caused by diabetes. This includes proliferative and nonproliferative retinopathy. Nonproliferative is the most common form, and it happens when the blood vessels become blocked. It progresses in three stages: mild, moderate, and severe.
Because diabetics are 40 percent more likely to suffer from glaucoma, this disease is a common risk associated with diabetes. Occurring when pressure builds up in the eye, glaucoma prevents proper blood flow in the eye and often causes nerve damage.
Proliferative retinopathy is the next step in the disorder. It occurs when new blood vessels begin to grow after the other ones have become too blocked. The new vessels are weak, and often leak blood into the eye. They can also cause retinal detachment, and scar tissue across the eye.
Treatments & Care
A few simple changes can help you better manage your diabetes and reduce the risk of vision problems. First, ensure that your blood sugar levels are regular and controlled. This not only helps prevent diseases from forming, but it also helps slow down the progress of any vision problems that may have already developed. Another key step to improving your vision is bringing down high blood pressure, which can worsen vision problems. Finally, be sure to schedule annual appointments with your eye doctor to monitor vision health and catch any problems that may arise early.
Aside from preventative measures that can be taken from general eye care, some diabetics could be candidates for LASIK surgery. Though it should be noted that you could be at a higher risk for complications, it may be worthwhile to consider the procedure. Here is how you can know if you would be a reasonable candidate for LASIK surgery:
- Having your blood glucose under control. While it doesn’t completely eliminate the risk, it does lessen chances of complications during the operation.
- Having lived with diabetes for a shorter amount of time, and working with a surgeon who has a lot of experience with diabetic patients could improve your chances of a successful outcome.
- Your willingness and diligence to deal with any complications if and when they occur could be the biggest predictor to your outcome after the surgery. Educate yourself on the risks and how you can lessen them before you decide to move forward.