If you suffer from diabetes then it is important that you are aware of the full range of eye problems that it can cause. It is a widely accepted fact that diabetes is the most common cause of blindness amongst those aged between 18 and 80 years of age, although in most cases this is completely avoidable. The main risk factor in terms of loss of vision and diabetes is that of high blood sugar. When blood sugar levels are elevated, the lens of the eye becomes prone to swelling and this will cause the patient to experience blurred vision. However, once the blood sugar is stabilised and back down to a safe level, the problem should gradually disappear. Of course, this is just a temporary eye problem and although it might be worrying at first, there are much more serious eye conditions which are essential for diabetics to look out for.

Diabetes and Cataracts

One of the more common long term eye problems that you should be aware of if you are diabetic is that of cataracts. This is where the normally clear lens in the eye becomes foggy or cloudy. Although the disease is quite common amongst the elderly generation, with diabetes the onset of the condition can start at a much earlier age. The main thing you should look for that can signify the early stages of the development of cataracts is blurred or glared vision. If you are suffering from cataracts then the most popular form of treatment is surgery. These days it is common procedure for the affected lens to be removed in its entirety and replaced with a man made alternative. The operation is known as a CLE, or clear lens extraction, and it is typically performed under a local anaesthetic as an outpatient procedure taking around 15 minutes to complete.

Diabetic Glaucoma

Another worrying eye problem that can result in blindness or loss of vision if left untreated is that of glaucoma. When a patient suffers from glaucoma, it is because of the eye’s inability to drain itself of the fluid that it contains. The human eye is filled with a liquid called the “vitreous humour” which is constantly being replaced with new fluid. When the fluid being replaced is not able to drain properly then an excess of pressure occurs which is referred to as “Intraocular Pressure”. This increased pressure can cause irreversible damage to the optical fibres that connect the eye to the brain and this can result in a permanent loss of eyesight. There are several types of medication that can help to reduce this pressure such as special eye drops and there are also surgical treatments available which are aimed towards improving drainage artificially. If you suffer from diabetes then you can reduce or eliminate the risk of losing your vision by signing up for a regular glaucoma screening program with your GP.

Diabetes and Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is actually the number one cause of permanent blindness in the developed world and the risk factor is directly linked to the length of time that the patient has been suffering from diabetes. This particular eye problem is caused by damage to the small vessels in the optic nerve and it can be controlled or avoided simply by managing your blood sugar level more effectively with a strict regime. The damage caused is often referred to as a “micro vascular complication” and if the disease is not caught early enough then the implications can be quite severe and irreversible.

There are three main types of retinopathy and these are background retinopathy, maculopathy and proliferative retinopathy. With background retinopathy there may be no loss of vision at all, although the small blood vessels will show some signs of damage. This condition is easily controlled by managing your diabetes correctly. In maculopathy, the part of the eye known as the macula has become damaged and this is where vision can be more seriously affected. With proliferative retinopathy, the vessels in the eye become a lot thinner and new vessels have begun to grow around the back of the eye.

There are certain procedures which have been developed that can reduce some of the damage caused by retinopathy which involve burning some of the fragile vessels that result in blindness. This is done using a computer controlled laser and it can provide a fifty percent improvement in terms of helping the patient regain their eyesight. However, prevention is a much more effective solution to the problem. You can reduce the risks of advanced retinopathy by taking precautionary measures such as stopping smoking and effectively managing your blood sugar, cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Regular screening is also recommended.

Tell Your Doctor

If you begin to see flashes of light or black spots in your vision, or your eyesight becomes blurred, then it is always advisable to consult your GP at the earliest opportunity. Most diabetic eye problems can be avoided or successfully treated and managed if they are discovered quickly enough. The most important advice is to always take care of yourself and to monitor your blood pressure and sugar levels regularly as these are responsible for causing the most damage of all if they are not carefully controlled.