How Diabetes Can Impact Your Eyes

With early detection, you are able to treat diabetes sooner, helping you improve your health as well as lower your overall healthcare costs.

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While eye exams are important for everyone, they are crucial for those who have or are at risk for diabetes. The eyes can tell us a lot about our health, and this is especially true for people with diabetes. Through a comprehensive eye exam, your optometrist can detect early signs of the condition – sometimes years before you even experience symptoms.  With early detection, you are able to treat diabetes sooner, helping you improve your health as well as lower your overall healthcare costs.

Why Our Eyes Are So Vulnerable

Small blood vessels and nerves are very sensitive to changes in blood sugar. As sugar levels rise in the blood of someone with diabetes, nerves and blood vessels are damaged. While this happens everywhere in the body, we normally can’t see it because skin and bones block our view. Our eyes, on the other hand, provide an unobstructed view where the damage done to the delicate blood vessels and nerves in the light-detecting retina can easily be seen by your optometrist.

This damage to the retina is called diabetic retinopathy. The small blood vessels that feed the eye swell and bleed as they become more damaged, and they may even grow abnormally on the retina itself. As this happens, unprocessed blood sugars, fats, and proteins all leak into the retina, causing widespread damage and eventual vision loss.

What You Can Do

If all people with diabetes got a yearly eye exam, the vast majority could avoid going blind. The problem is almost 54 million Americans are at risk for diabetes, and many don’t know it. On top of that, one in three people with diabetes is completely unaware that he or she has a problem. Talk to your optometrist at your next eye exam, and see if you are at risk. Beyond diabetes, your eye care professional can also detect signs of other serious health issues such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. In getting your eyes checked every year, you’ll be protecting your vision and your health for years to come.
 

Provided by VSP