Because diabetes is a systemic condition that affects every part of the body, it’s important for people with this disease to have a comprehensive eye exam every year. If you don’t know you have diabetes, an eye exam can even help diagnose it.
Having diabetes can put your vision at risk. Three common diseases that can develop from untreated diabetes are cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
Although anyone can get a cataract, diabetics get cataracts at an earlier age. A cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye, which makes the lens unable to focus. People with diabetes experience a quicker deterioration of the lens. Cataracts can be removed with surgery and the old lens can be replaced with a clear lens.
Glaucoma is caused by an increase in the intraocular pressure, or the pressure on the inside of the eye. Increased pressure can damage the optic nerve which can cause permanent vision loss. People with diabetes can get an uncommon type of glaucoma called neovascular glaucoma. In this form of glaucoma, new blood vessels grow into the iris of the eye and block the normal flow of aqueous which raises intraocular pressure.
This is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness. Caused by high levels of blood glucose, diabetic retinopathy is characterized by the leaking of blood vessels in the retina. Diabetes can cause blood vessels to swell and leak fluid. Sometimes, new blood vessels can grow on the surface of the retina.
Diabetic retinopathy is usually treated with laser and medications. This is not possible when there is dense and persistent vitreous hemorrhage in the eye. These eyes are treated with vitrectomy surgery. This technique allows the doctor to clean away the vitreous blood and apply a laser to prevent future bleeding.