Diabetes And Eye Disease

Posted on: 24 May 2016

Along with all of the other ways in which diabetes affects your body, it can harm your eyes. Often developing quietly because of few symptoms, diabetic retinopathy can cause severe vision loss, even blindness. Here is what you need to know about the way this disease can hurt your eyes and how to keep it from stealing your eyesight.

Diabetes and the Blood Vessels in Your Eyes

Diabetes impacts the blood vessels that line the interior surface of your eye. These veins are important for nourishing the eye tissue, especially around the retina. It's here that diabetes posses the most danger to your eyes. Diabetic retinopathy appears in two forms.

Nonproliferative retinopathy - The tiny blood vessels that cover the back of the eye over the retina become weak. The blood pressure forces fluid from the vessels out onto the surface of the eye. As more fluid collects on the retina, light is prevented from reaching it. You'll slowly need more light to see clearly, and it will become hard to focus on individual objects. When this becomes severe, dark blotches begin to appear in your vision.

Proliferative retinopathy - With this form, new blood vessels develop on the surface of the eye over the retina that create scar tissue. The scar tissue tugs on the retina. As it continues, it can pull the retina away from the back of the eye, causing varying levels of blindness.

Diagnosing Diabetic Eye Disease

Symptoms can come on slowly and may be mistaken for other less harmful eye conditions. In some cases, few symptoms occur until the damage to your vision is severe. When they do happen, some of the signs of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • blurry vision
  • static gray patches in your vision
  • dark patches that float across your vision
  • mild aching in the eye

Regular diabetic eye exams are the best way to stay ahead of this disease. Your eye doctor can detect the weakened blood vessels before they have much of an impact on your vision.

Treating Diabetic Retinopathy

This eye disease cannot be cured, but the progression of the vision loss can be slowed down. This makes early diagnosis important so treatment can be started before the vision loss is severe. Your eye doctor will determine which form of diabetic retinopathy is present and will recommend one or more of the following treatment options:

Medication - Eye drops or an injection directly into the eye will slow down the growth of the weak blood vessels and prevent the scar tissue from developing.

Laser surgery - A tiny laser is used on the surface of the retina to remove some of the fluid that has leaked out of the blood vessels.  The laser can also damage the weak blood vessels, causing them to shrink and be absorbed by the body.

Neither of these treatments will restore lost vision and are used to slow down the advancement of the disease. These treatments may also need to be repeated every few months to prevent future vision loss.