HOW CAN DIABETES AFFECT YOUR VISION?
Eric J. Del Piero, MD
Diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes mellitus, is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the eye. If you have diabetes mellitus, your body does not use or store sugar properly. This problem can make your blood sugar levels high, which causes changes in your body’s veins, arteries and capillaries that carry blood throughout your body. As a result of diabetes, you run the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, where damage occurs to the delicate blood vessels inside the retina at the back of the eye. Patients may experience blurred vision, floaters or flashing lights in one or both eyes that lasts more than a few days. You can significantly lower your risk of vision loss by maintaining strict control of your blood sugar.
Fortunately, with timely diagnosis and treatment, most people with diabetes can keep good vision. All diabetic patients should have a dilated eye examination once a year by their ophthalmologist. Anyone diagnosed with diabetes when they are older than 30 years should have an eye exam within a few months of diagnosis. Diabetic retinopathy may already exist if diabetes has gone undetected for a while. Pregnant women with diabetes should schedule an appointment with their ophthalmologist in the first trimester because retinopathy can progress quickly during pregnancy.
Treatment with laser surgery is often recommended for people with macular edema, proliferative diabetic retinopathy and neovascular glaucoma. Laser surgery is usually performed in an office setting. In more extreme cases, vitrectomy surgery, performed in a hospital operating room, may be required to remove blood and scar tissue caused by the abnormal blood vessels.