Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye conditions that affect people with diabetes: diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in Canadians under the age of 65.
Diabetic eye disease is primarily the result of chronically high blood sugar levels. It is important to note that even if you have diabetes, it does not mean you are guaranteed to develop one of these diseases. As well, people without diabetes can develop any type of the 3 following eye conditions.
This particular type of retinopathy is the most common eye disease that diabetics are at risk for. Diabetic retinopathy directly affects the blood vessels of your retina (the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of your eye).
When diabetes isn’t managed properly, chronically high blood sugar levels will eventually cause damage to the small blood vessels of the retina.
These damaged blood vessels have the potential to leak fluid or blood into your eye. This leakage will in turn cause the retinal tissue to swell, leading to distorted vision.
If left untreated, patients with diabetic retinopathy can expect to suffer from complete vision loss.
As blood and other fluids leak into the vitreous (interior substance of your eye), vision begins to cloud. Retinal scarring can be a direct result of the newly formed weak blood vessels. If this happens, there is a risk of the retina being pulled on and eventually detaching, ultimately leading to a complete loss of vision.
If retinal tears/detachment is detected and treated early on, vision loss can likely be prevented. We recommend regular eye exams, once per year, if you have diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy progresses slowly and quietly, often going undetected until your vision is already damaged.
Treatment will depend on the type and stage of your diabetic retinopathy. They include:
A cataract is the clouding of the natural lens in your eye. If you have diabetes you are at risk of developing cataracts much earlier in life, with a faster rate of progression.
If you are an adult with diabetes, you have double the risk of developing glaucoma. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can cause complete vision loss as a result of damage to the optic nerve.
If you have diabetes, or a health condition with an increased risk for eye disease, we recommend having a comprehensive eye exam every year.
The earlier our Optometrist is able to detect potential eye conditions, the more likely they are able to prevent you from experiencing complete vision loss. Yearly eye exams will provide us the opportunity to monitor your overall eye health and catch the smallest of changes, before there is severe damage to your vision.