Even many people with the disease are unaware of the fact that diabetes can lead to vision threatening eye damage. Diabetes is the primary cause of loss of sight in adults under 75 years old according to the National Institute of Health. One of the risks of diabetes is retinal damage caused by increased pressure in the blood vessels of the eye. This is called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most serious complications of the disease and it is projected to affect 11 million people by 2030.
Diabetic retinopathy can be asymptomatic until there has been significant vision loss. Loss of sight ultimately develops when the retinal blood vessels begin to leak. As the disease progresses, blood vessels may become blocked or new vessels may form on the retina leading to permanent vision loss.
Because symptoms are often not seen until it is too late it is important to have an annual comprehensive eye exam if you have diabetes. Symptoms of developing diabetic retinopathy include any kind of vision problems such as fluctuations, spots, shadows, double or blurred vision or pain. Diabetes also increases the risk of developing glaucoma and cataracts.
There are effective treatments to slow the progression of diabetic eye diseases and stop further loss of sight as a result of diabetes, but the disease must be diagnosed early. In addition to making sure that you have a regular eye exam annually if you are diabetic, controlling your blood sugar levels is crucial to your eye health.
This month, spread awareness of the risks of diabetic retinopathy and speak to your eye doctor to discuss questions or concerns. It could mean the difference between a life of sight and one of darkness.