Even many individuals with the disease are not aware that diabetes can lead to vision loss. Diabetes is the leading cause of loss of sight in adults under 75 years old according to the National Institute of Health. One of the most serious complications of diabetes is retinal damage caused by excessive pressure in the blood vessels of the eye, which is called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy causes severe vision impairment and even blindness. Anyone with the disease is at risk and it is projected to affect 11 million people by 2030.
In its early stages, this condition is often asymptomatic. Vision problems occur when the retinal blood vessels begin to leak. When it is not diagnosed, blood vessels could be completely stopped up or new vessels may grow on the retina leading to irreparable vision loss.
Because symptoms are often not noticed until vision is already at risk it is crucial to see your eye doctor once a year to perform a diabetic eye exam if you are diabetic. Warning signs of diabetic retinopathy include fluctuating vision, eye floaters and spots, the development of a shadow in your field of view, blurry vision, corneal abnormalities, double vision, eye pain and near vision problems that have nothing to do with presbyopia. Cataracts and glaucoma are also more common in individuals with diabetes than in the average population.
All diabetic eye diseases are more damaging when glucose levels are uncontrolled. Monitoring your diabetes through diet, exercise and staying healthy and annual eye exams is the best combination for preserving your vision.
If you or a loved one has diabetes, make sure you are knowledgeable about the risks of diabetic retinopathy and other eye risks and speak to your optometrist if you have any questions. It could mean the difference between a life of sight and one of darkness.