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Chronic Condition News

February 2014

Eye Care Critical If You Have Diabetes

Much of the damage diabetes does to your body you can’t see. That includes diabetic retinopathy. This eye problem usually causes no early symptoms. But it can lead to poor vision and even blindness. Taking care of your eyes can prevent it and other eye diseases.


Revealing statistics

Over time, diabetes weakens blood vessels throughout the body. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the small blood vessels in your eyes become damaged. The blood vessels may swell up and leak blood, affecting your vision. In advanced stages, new blood vessels may grow over the retina, blocking that part of the eye from sensing light.

According to the CDC, an increasing number of people with diabetes are reporting vision problems. In particular, experts expect cases of diabetic retinopathy to double by 2050. Hispanics appear most at risk for this eye problem.

What’s behind this rise? People with diabetes may not be aware of potential eye problems. In a recent study, researchers looked at data from a national survey. More than one-third of respondents with diabetes didn’t receive a recommended eye exam in the last year. Even more eye-opening: More than half didn’t know the disease could damage their eyesight.

Vision-saving steps

Along with developing diabetic retinopathy, people with diabetes are also more apt to develop glaucoma and cataracts. Glaucoma is a buildup of fluid pressure in your eye. Too much pressure can damage the retina and optic nerve—the nerve that links the eyes to the brain and is responsible for vision. Cataracts cloud the eye’s lens, stopping light from entering.

You can help prevent these eye-related diseases by controlling your blood sugar. Keeping it in a healthy range may help limit blood vessel damage. You can also protect your vision with the following:

  • Schedule an annual eye exam that includes pupil dilation. With your pupils dilated, your eye doctor can see more of the inside of your eye. He or she can detect problems before symptoms develop.

  • Manage your blood pressure. Hypertension can aggravate eye problems.

  • Quit smoking, if necessary.


Find out more about diabetes-related eye problems here.

Diabetic Retinopathy: What to Watch For

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye problem in people with diabetes. If you have the condition, you may not notice any initial symptoms. As the disease worsens, though, you can develop serious vision problems, including blindness.

A regular eye exam is the best way to protect against diabetic retinopathy. You should also see your eye doctor right away if you notice any of these eye problems:

  • Blurry or double vision

  • Dark or floating spots

  • Flashing lights

  • Pain or pressure in one or both eyes

  • Trouble reading

  • Constant eye redness

  • Loss of peripheral vision

Online resources

National Eye Institute

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

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