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Vision and Diabetes

Diabetes is a disorder that disrupts the metabolic process that results in increased levels of blood sugar either due to insufficient insulin production or because the body does not efficiently utilize the insulin produced (depending on the type of diabetes).

The risk of damage to your eyes is increased when diabetes is not treated. Diabetic eye disease can actualize in a number of forms.

The most common eye complication of diabetes is one that results in damage to the blood vessels that lead to the retina. This is called diabetic retinopathy and is a leading cause of vision loss in adults.

Located at the back of the eye, the retina is a necessary component for proper vision. Damage to the retina can result in irreversible vision loss. While controlling diabetes can reduce the likelihood of developing diabetic retinopathy, it does not totally eliminate the risk and consequently it is strongly recommended to have an annual retinal exam.

Daily fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which are common in situations where diabetes is uncontrolled, can have an impact on the functioning of the crystalline lens of the eye. Because blood sugar levels are linked to your lens's ability to focus, this can result in blurry vision that fluctuates with glucose levels.

Cataracts, or a clouding of the lens of the eye, can also develop in diabetics. Even though cataracts are common in people over a certain age, the chance of having the condition at a younger age is increased in individuals with diabetes.

Glaucoma, which is caused by increased interoptic fluid pressure, can cause blindness. Diabetics are two times more likely to develop glaucoma.

Having your diabetes in control is the best form of prevention for any of the eye and vision problems associated with the disease. In addition to controlling levels of glucose by means of proper nutrition and/or insulin, it's important to exercise and refrain from smoking. Since eye damage is often not noticeable until damage has occurred it is critical to schedule regular yearly checkups with an optometrist to identify any possible problems as early as possible. While in many cases any loss of sight that results from diabetic eye disease in any form is irreparable, further loss of sight can be halted by early diagnosis.