How Does Diabetes Affect Your Vision?

Diabetes is a chronic condition affecting how your body processes sugar (glucose). Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can lead to a host of health complications, including serious damage to your eyes. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults. The good news is that with careful diabetes management and regular eye exams, you can significantly reduce your risk of vision loss.

female tennessee eye care eye doctor with diabetes patient

How Diabetes Damages the Eyes

High blood sugar levels over time can damage the delicate blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of your eye. This damage can lead to several eye diseases, including:

  • Diabetic Retinopathy: This is the most common form of diabetic eye disease. It occurs when weakened blood vessels in the retina leak fluid or blood, causing swelling and distorted vision. In severe cases, abnormal blood vessels can grow on the retina’s surface, leading to scarring and potential vision loss.
  • Diabetic Macular Edema (DME): DME is a complication of diabetic retinopathy. It involves fluid buildup in the macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision, causing blurred and distorted vision.
  • Cataracts: People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing cataracts, the clouding of the eye’s lens. Cataracts are more common and tend to develop at an earlier age in people with diabetes.
  • Glaucoma: Diabetes increases your risk of glaucoma, a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. Glaucoma can cause gradual vision loss.

Symptoms of Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetic eye diseases often develop without any noticeable symptoms in the early stages. That’s why regular eye exams are so important. As the disease progresses, you might experience:

  • Blurry or double vision
  • Floaters (spots or dark strings floating in your vision)
  • Flashes of light
  • Dark or empty spots in your central vision
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Color vision changes

Prevention is Key: The Importance of Eye Exams

The best way to protect your vision from the complications of diabetes is through proactive management. This includes:

  • Managing Blood Sugar Levels: Work closely with your doctor to keep your blood sugar within a healthy range through diet, exercise, and medication as needed.
  • Controlling Blood Pressure and Cholesterol: High blood pressure and cholesterol can further increase your risk of eye damage.
  • Annual Eye Exams: See an ophthalmologist for a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year, even if you have no vision problems. Early detection and treatment of diabetic eye diseases are crucial for preserving your sight.

What Happens During a Dilated Eye Exam

During a dilated eye exam, the ophthalmologist will put drops in your eyes to widen (dilate) your pupils. This allows them to get a better view of the retina and other structures in the back of your eye. They will carefully examine your eyes for signs of diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, and other potential problems.

Treatment Options for Diabetic Eye Disease

If the ophthalmologist detects eye problems related to diabetes, a range of treatments may be recommended, including:

  • Medications: Anti-VEGF medications injected into the eye are commonly used to treat wet diabetic retinopathy and DME.
  • Laser Therapy: Laser procedures can seal leaky blood vessels or destroy abnormal blood vessels in the retina.
  • Surgery: Vitrectomy surgery may be necessary to remove blood and scar tissue from the eye in severe cases of diabetic retinopathy. Cataract surgery can restore clear vision.

Tennessee Eye Care: Protecting Your Vision

At Tennessee Eye Care, we’re committed to helping people with diabetes maintain healthy eyesight. Our experienced ophthalmologists specialize in the diagnosis and management of diabetic eye diseases. We offer the latest technology and personalized care to support you in your diabetes journey.

For your convenience, we have multiple locations across East Tennessee, including Knoxville, Powell, Lenoir City, Morristown, and Harriman.

Don’t let diabetes steal your sight. Schedule your annual eye exam with Tennessee Eye Care today.

Need help? Contact our office to schedule an appointment.