Many people are affected with the serious condition known as diabetes, where the body suffers from higher than healthy blood sugar levels. When the body is unable to produce enough insulin or properly absorb the insulin being produced, the body fails to balance blood sugar levels. Unfortunately, many eye complications arise as a result of diabetes.
At Ft. Lauderdale Eye Associates, a comprehensive eye exam can check for diabetic retinopathy, which is a serious eye condition related to diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy occurs as a result of extended periods of high blood sugar and comes in two types: nonproliferative and proliferative.”
Nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy is the earliest stage of retinopathy, where damaged blood vessels in the retina begin leaking fluids and blood into the eye. In some cases, deposits of cholesterol from the blood may leak into the retina. Although diabetic retinopathy at this stage is rarely sight threatening, sometimes swelling or thickening of the macula caused by fluid leaked into the eye causes the macula to function improperly. This is called macular edema and is the leading cause of vision loss related to diabetes.
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is a more advanced stage of retinopathy in which many blood vessels in the eye have closed themselves off, preventing proper blood flow to the eyes. As a result, the retina begins to grow new blood vessels in an attempt to restore adequate blood flow. These new blood vessels are abnormal and are not able to supply the retina with a proper blood supply. At the same time, the new blood vessels often create scar tissue that may cause the retina to wrinkle or detach. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is generally more serious and sight threatening than non-proliferative retinopathy because of traction retinal detachment, in which the wrinkling of the retina causes parts of the macula or retina to become detached.
Diabetics are also at higher risk for cataracts and glaucoma. Diabetics develop cataracts at a younger age and their cataracts progress more quickly than non-diabetic patients. Another serious condition resulting from diabetes is glaucoma, in which fluid pressure inside the eye builds up and damages the optical nerve. The damage often occurs slowly, and a person may not realize they are losing their vision until significant irreversible damage has taken place.
It is important to have regular eye exams to monitor for warning signs of these and other conditions that result from diabetes.