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How Does Diabetes Cause Blindness

Other Types Of Diabetic Eye Disease

New drug could reverse blindness effects in diabetics

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss for people with diabetes. But diabetes can also make you more likely to develop several other eye conditions:

  • Cataracts. Having diabetes makes you 2 to 5 times more likely to develop cataracts. It also makes you more likely to get them at a younger age. Learn more about cataracts.
  • Open-angle glaucoma. Having diabetes nearly doubles your risk of developing a type of glaucoma called open-angle glaucoma. Learn more about glaucoma.

Can Diabetes Cause Blindness

While those vision changes are temporary, there are several ways that Diabetes can cause more permanent damage to your sight. These changes occur not due to daily fluctuations in blood sugar levels, but rather high average numbers over a longer period of time. This long-term poor control of diabetes causes changes to the small blood vessels in the back part of the eye, which leads to decreased blood flow and damage to the vital structures in your eye necessary for vision. Over time this can lead to other problems including weak new blood vessel growth, bleeding in the back part of the eye, macular edema , scar tissue formation, and detachments of the retina . In all, these various changes to the eyes and the vision loss associated with them make Diabetes one of the leading eye diseases that cause blindness in the United States!

Whenever you visit one of our doctors at SureVision Eye Centers for a complete dilated eye examination we will be able to directly see if you have any of these diabetic eye changes and will be happy to discuss this with you. We will also send a letter to the doctor who manages your Diabetes to let them know of our findings. This is very important because, if these changes are occurring in your eyes, the same type of damage is likely happening throughout the rest of your body. Communicating this with your doctor will allow him or her to watch for and manage other physical complications of Diabetes and adjust treatment goals as necessary.


How Diabetic Retinopathy Is Diagnosed

During your eye exam, your eye doctor will check how well you see the details of letters or symbols from a distance. Your doctor will also look at the retina and inside of your eyes and may use a dye to reveal leaky blood vessels. If it turns out you have diabetic retinopathy, your eye doctor may want to check your vision more often than once a year.

You should be checked for diabetic retinopathy immediately if youre diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. If you have type 1 diabetes, you should be checked within 5 years of your diagnosis and then regularly thereafter, typically every year. The sooner youre treated for diabetic retinopathy, the better that treatment will work.

  • Difficulty reading or doing detail work

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Diabetes And Vision Loss

Get a dilated eye exam at least once a year to protect your eyesight.

Diabetes can damage your eyes over time and cause vision loss, even blindness. The good news is managing your diabetes and getting regular eye exams can help prevent vision problems and stop them from getting worse.

Eye diseases that can affect people with diabetes include diabetic retinopathy, macular edema , cataracts, and glaucoma. All can lead to vision loss, but early diagnosis and treatment can go a long way toward protecting your eyesight.

How Is Retinopathy Treated

Why Does Diabetes Cause Blindness

Huge strides have been made in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy. Treatments such as scatter photocoagulation, focal photocoagulation, and vitrectomy prevent blindness in most people. The sooner retinopathy is diagnosed, the more likely these treatments will be successful. The best results occur when sight is still normal.

In , the eye care professional makes tiny burns on the retina with a special laser. These burns seal the blood vessels and stop them from growing and leaking.

In scatter photocoagulation , the eye care professional makes hundreds of burns in a polka-dot pattern on two or more occasions. Scatter photocoagulation reduces the risk of blindness from vitreous hemorrhage or detachment of the retina, but it only works before bleeding or detachment has progressed very far. This treatment is also used for some kinds of glaucoma.

Side effects of scatter photocoagulation are usually minor. They include several days of blurred vision after each treatment and possible loss of side vision.

In focal photocoagulation, the eye care professional aims the laser precisely at leaking blood vessels in the macula. This procedure does not cure blurry vision caused by macular edema, but it does keep it from getting worse.

There are two types of treatment for macular edema: focal laser therapy that slows the leakage of fluid, and medications that can be injected into the eye that slow the growth of new blood vessels and reduce the leakage of fluid into the macula.

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I Have Diabetes: Will I Go Blind

For people with diabetes, the thought of losing their eyesight is scary. And its a valid fear. The damage to the retina of the eye caused by diabetes called diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among working-age Americans.

But theres good news. Diabetic retinopathy often can be prevented with early detection, proper management of your diabetes and routine eye exams performed by your optometrist or ophthalmologist.

How The Eye Is Affected

The structure of the eye is like a camera. Light passes through the transparent front lenses, as if through the lenses of a camera, until it reaches the back wall of the eye. This wall contains a very thin piece of light-sensitive tissue: the retina.

The tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina can be damaged by diabetes. The damage can cause the blood vessels to become leaky, like a water hose with holes in it. This is called non-proliferative retinopathy. Fluid leaks out of the blood vessels and into the retinal tissue which can cause vision problems. This causes the retina to thicken, creating blurred vision. The swelling associated with diabetes in the macula, the central part of the eye responsible for staring straight ahead, called diabetic macular edema.

In another process, blood vessels damaged by hyperglycemia close, and a series of events begin. Starving retinal tissue produces growth causing new blood vessels to form on the surface of the retina. When the new blood vessels form, its called proliferative retinopathy.

These new blood vessels are weak and can easily break and bleed. This leads to scar tissue, which can build up on the back wall of the eye and stretch the retina, eventually separating it from the back of the eye. This condition is known as retinal detachment, and it can happen suddenly or slowly over time.

You can have 20/20 vision and still have diabetic retinopathy. Some of the early signs include:

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What Are The Symptoms Of Diabetes

In the early stages, most people experience no signs of diabetes-related retinopathy. You may not experience vision changes until the condition is severe. For some people, symptoms come and go.

Symptoms of diabetes-related retinopathy include:

  • Blurred or distorted vision.
  • Poor night vision .
  • Small dark spots or streaks in your vision.
  • Trouble reading or seeing faraway objects.

What Is Diabetic Eye Disease

Imagine Life Blind: Open Your Eyes to Diabetic Blindness

Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye problems that can affect people with diabetes. These conditions include diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma.

Over time, diabetes can cause damage to your eyes that can lead to poor vision or even blindness. But you can take steps to prevent diabetic eye disease, or keep it from getting worse, by taking care of your diabetes.

The best ways to manage your diabetes and keep your eyes healthy are to

Often, there are no warning signs of diabetic eye disease or vision loss when damage first develops. A full, dilated eye exam helps your doctor find and treat eye problems earlyoften before much vision loss can occur.

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Diabetes Can Cause Cataracts

The lens of the eye sits behind the iris and is responsible for 30 percent of the eye’s focusing power. It is the part of the eye that becomes a cataract as it ages.

In a person with diabetes, the excess sugar in the lens cannot be transformed into fructose quickly enough and accumulates in the lens fibers creating opacities. This forms the cataract and in diabetics, this process happens much more quickly than in non-diabetics.

Symptoms of cataracts usually start with blurry or cloudy vision and worsen progressively. Progression is slow in most patients however, in diabetics cataracts can form seemingly overnight.

One of the most common signs of the development of a cataract is glare when driving at night. The lights of cars can make a patient with cataracts unable to drive at night safely.

Cataracts can be removed surgically however, diabetics have a higher incidence of complications during and after surgery.

Reduce Your Risk Of Diabetic Retinopathy

You can reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, or help prevent it getting worse, by:

  • controlling your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • taking your diabetes medicine as prescribed
  • attending all your screening appointments
  • getting medical advice quickly if you notice any changes to your vision
  • maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy, balanced diet, exercising regularly and stopping smoking

Read more about how to prevent diabetic retinopathy.

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How Diabetic Retinopathy Can Cause Blindness

It is a little-known fact that diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world. This is especially true among the working age population. The reason is that the risk of developing sight-threatening eye disease increases significantly after living with diabetes for 20 years.

Diabetic Retinopathy damages the small blood vessels inside the retina at the back of the eye the part that detects light and sends signals to the brain through the optic nerve. The retina is a light-sensitive thin layer of tissue located near the optic nerve. It converts light into electrical signals, which are transmitted to the brain. The brain then turns them into the images you see.

The retina needs a constant supply of blood, which it receives through a network of tiny blood vessels. If the blood sugar levels are too high over a period of time, it can cause damage to the blood vessels leading to diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy commonly affects both eyes and can lead to vision loss if it is not treated.

Wear Sunglasses Whenever You Are Outside

Can Diabetes Cause Blindness

Wearing sunglasses can protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet light can affect your eyelids, cornea, lens and retina. A pair of sunglasses that are engineered for 99-100% UV protection can be very beneficial.

Cant see the sun? You can still be affected. UV rays are present even when its cloudy. Sunglasses are important to block out those rays.

Prevention is the name of the game. By taking these steps, you should be able to reduce your risk of potentially blinding eye conditions. These tips are also a benefit to your overall health and help prevent other common diseases associated with diabetes.

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When Should You Call Your Doctor

if you have diabetes and notice:

  • New or sudden vision changes.
  • Floaters in your field of vision. Floaters often appear as dark specks, globs, strings, or dots. A sudden shower of floaters may be a sign of a retinal detachment, which is a serious complication of diabetic retinopathy.
  • A new visual defect, shadow, or curtain across part of your vision. This is another sign of retinal detachment.
  • Eye pain or a feeling of pressure in your eye.
  • New or sudden vision loss. Sudden partial or complete vision loss is a symptom of many disorders that can occur within or outside the eye, including retinal detachment or bleeding within the eye. Sudden vision loss is always a medical emergency.
  • You have more and more trouble doing everyday tasks because of your eyesight.

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Regular Eye Exams Are Important

All people with diabetes are at risk for diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy develops over time and often goes unnoticed until vision loss occurs.

Following your diabetes ABCDEs and getting your eyes checked regularly by an ophthalmologist or optometrist are crucial to prevent vision loss or keep it from getting worse.

If you have diabetic retinopathy, very effective treatments are available. Your eye-care specialist will explain these to you.

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Control Your Blood Sugar

We all know that eating right is good for your health and wellbeing, but eating a balanced diet is critical maintaining your eyesight if you are diabetic.

If your blood sugars are too high, your eyesight will suffer. With simple blood sugar monitoring, you can learn how food will impact your blood sugar level . Talk with your personal doctor and educate yourself on steps to manage your blood sugar, which when applied will help prevent dangerous complications.

Can Diabetes Cause Night Blindness

How diabetic blindness occurs and How to prevent it

How do you know if you have diabetes and its harming your vision? Diabetes-related retinopathy. This is a very frequent complication of diabetes and arises when the disease destroys the blood vessels in the eye. This damage results in symptoms such as blurred vision, floaters and black patches in the field of vision, swelling of the retina , impaired color perception, and ultimately blindness.

What are the early signs of diabetic retinopathy? The walls of the blood vessels in your retina weaken in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. The vessel walls protrude in tiny bulges, sometimes seeping or oozing fluid and blood into the retina. The retinal tissues may expand, resulting in white patches on the retina.

How often is diabetes-related blindness? Although many persons with diabetes acquire visual problems, less than 5% develop serious vision loss.

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What Are The Symptoms

Most of the time, there are no symptoms of diabetic retinopathy until it starts to change your vision. When this happens, diabetic retinopathy is already severe. Having your eyes checked regularly can find diabetic retinopathy early enough to treat it and help prevent vision loss.

If you notice problems with your vision, call an eye doctor right away. Changes in vision can be a sign of severe damage to your eye. These changes can include floaters, pain in the eye, blurry vision, or new vision loss.

Symptoms Of Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetic retinopathy causes blood vessel damage in the retina. Left untreated, it can cause vision loss and can develop into DME.

Approximately 40% to 45% of patients with diabetes have symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, though many don’t notice it. Symptoms can include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Faded, washed out appearance of colors
  • Blank or dark areas in your field of vision

Diabetic macular edema is a build-up of fluid in the center of the retina, or the macula. This part of the eye is responsible for sharp vision and most of our color vision. Symptoms can include:

  • Blurry or wavy vision in the center of your field of vision
  • Noticing colors appear faded or washed out

Both forms of diabetic eye disease are treatable. Types of treatment and effectiveness depend on the severity of the condition.

At UT Southwestern, we take a multidisciplinary approach to diagnose and treat diabetic eye disease. If we detect diabetes-related eye symptoms and you have been diagnosed with diabetes, we can recommend that you follow up with your endocrinologist or primary care doctor.

If we see signs of eye damage but you have not been diagnosed with diabetes, we can refer you to a diabetes expert at UT Southwestern. The ophthalmology team works closely with our endocrinology doctors and nurses to make sure you have the treatment and information you need to reduce your risks.

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What Are The Different Types Of Diabetic Eye Disease

The most common diabetic eye disease is a mild form called non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy . Depending on the severity, your ophthamologist might recommend yearly or more frequent exams to monitor or detect changes.

Two more severe types of diabetic eye disease include:

  • Proliferative diabetic retinopathy . A condition where the small blood vessels in the eyes try to grow new blood vessels in the retina. This can cause bleeding and retinal detachment, damaging your eyes and your vision.
  • Diabetic macular edema . A condition where there is a build-up of fluid, or swelling, in the retina, caused by damaged blood vessels. This can lead to vision loss.

How Long After Diagnosis Should I Get Tested For Diabetic Eye Disease

Can Diabetes Cause Blindness

Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, but typically is diagnosed in children and young adults. Symptoms usually present at the onset of the disease, so Type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed early in the disease process. In Type 1 diabetes, diabetic retinopathy, if it occurs, usually takes at least five years to develop. Your physician will be able to determine an appropriate schedule for monitoring your eye health.

On the other hand, Type 2 diabetes symptoms are not always obvious, so its possible that someone may have diabetes for many years before they are diagnosed. For this reason, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends an eye exam at the time of diagnosis and yearly eye screening after that.

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