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Diabetes and Your Eye Doctor

New Jersey Ophthalmologist discusses managing diabetes with your eye doctors.

According to www.diabetes.org, recent data has shown that 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, and about 86 million are showing signs of pre-diabetes. With so many sufferers, our team of eye doctors in the Princeton and Hamilton, NJ areas see a lot of patients for diabetes-related eye care.

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which an individual has increased levels of blood glucose, or sugar. The pancreas is the vital organ that is responsible for producing the hormone insulin, which converts sugar into energy for the body. Blood sugar levels increase in the absence of insulin or when the body doesn’t respond appropriately to the insulin that is produced.

Early Detection

As is the case with most medical conditions, early detection is the key to minimizing or even negating diabetes’ long-term effects on the body. A number of the early signs of diabetes have to do with the health and function of the eyes.

Earliest symptoms of diabetes can be one or any combination of the following:

  • Blurred vision
  • Trouble reading signs or books
  • Seeing double
  • One or both eyes hurt for no apparent reason
  • Prolonged red eyes
  • Feeling pressure in the eyes
  • Seeing spots or floaters
  • Straight lines look bent
  • Diminished peripheral vision

Secondary Eye Complications

Aside from those relatively minor vision concerns, other more serious eye conditions can result from diabetes, including:

  • Diabetic retinopathy: This condition is the leading cause of blindness in American adults. The accumulated effect of increased blood sugar over time damages the blood vessels in the retina (the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye). These blood vessels enlarge, leak fluid, and create new, weak blood vessels that don’t supply proper blood flow in the eye.
  • Cataract: In this condition, the natural lens of the eye becomes cloudy as we grow older. Patients with diabetes tend to get cataracts at a younger age and have them advance faster than the general population. Cataracts can be easily removed, but in patients with diabetes recurring and additional complications might arise.
  • Diabetic macular edema: Once leaky blood vessels are damaged by uncontrolled blood sugar, the macula, which is responsible for sharp central vision, swells and causes blurry vision.
  • Neovascular glaucoma: This condition occurs when pressure builds up inside the eye due to new blood vessels growing on the iris (the colored part of the eye), closing off the fluid flow in the eye.
  • Retinal detachment: This occurs when the new blood vessels form scar tissue in the retina. The scars shrink, causing the retina to wrinkle and pull from its normal position.

Poor control of blood sugar levels can also lead to changes of the refractive status of the eye.

How We Can Help

Our experienced team of doctors at Outlook Eyecare can help you detect early damage along with diagnosing these symptoms and recommending the best course of treatment. The annual dilated diabetic eye exam includes measuring the fluid pressure inside your eyes (tonometry) to rule out glaucoma and checking each tissue inside the eye to rule out any sings of bleeding, fluid leakage, or new blood vessel formation. The eye is the only organ in the human body that allows us as eye doctors to see with the naked eye how the blood vessels behave in diabetes and other systemic disease.

As always, a healthy lifestyle goes a long way toward your well-being. Exercising, healthy eating habits, and regular monitoring of your blood sugar and blood pressure will help win the fight against diabetes and its detrimental effects on your vision.

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