Diabetes can affect the body in many ways, and you may have heard that it can cause eye problems and even lead to blindness. However, early detection and intervention of eye issues in diabetes patients can help prevent and/or postpone damage to the retina or vision loss. This is why it is extremely important for patients with diabetes to get a comprehensive eye exam annually.
There are a few forms of diabetes-related eye disease, including:
- Diabetic retinopathy – When the blood vessels in the retina (the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye) are damaged from diabetes.
- Diabetic macular edema - Occurs when blood vessels in the retina of patients with diabetes begin to leak, causing fluid buildup that can lead to vision loss.
- Cataracts – Permanent blurring of vision from cataracts can be caused by changes to the lens due to excess blood sugar.
- Glaucoma – When pressure builds within the eye, leading to a gradual loss of sight.
Retinopathy is the most common eye problem people with diabetes face, but it may not cause any symptoms that patients can see in the early stages of disease. People with diabetes should get regular eye exams, even before they lose vision, so their physician can look for signs and symptoms of retinopathy and treat it quickly. Treatment may include injections or laser treatment.
Risk factors of eye disease include uncontrolled blood sugar, high blood pressure and smoking. While proper blood sugar control and early intervention are key in preventing retinal damage and/or vision loss in diabetes patients, there have been many advancements in medications and surgical procedures that can help restore vision in diabetes patients who have already developed eye disease. If you have recently been diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to talk to your doctor about getting a comprehensive eye exam as soon as possible.
Our community is fortunate, as Cone Health has an exceptional network of ophthalmologists, primary care providers, endocrinologists and other diabetes-related specialists dedicated to caring for patients with diabetes and the complications that can occur with the disease.
Brian Zamora, MD, PhD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist with Triad Retina & Diabetic Eye Center and a member of Cone Health Medical Group. He is a fellowship-trained vitreoretinal specialist and his professional interests include eye diseases and surgery of the retina and vitreous. Zamora completed medical school at West Virginia University School of Medicine. He completed his residency in ophthalmology at University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Eye Institute and his fellowship in vitreoretinal surgery at Wake Forest University. Zamora received his Doctor of Philosophy in biochemistry and molecular biology at West Virginia University.