How Can Diabetes Affect My Eyes?

Today we present a very important article written by colleague Dr. Kevin Cornwell, OD who practices optometry at MACT Health Board, Inc. in San andreas, California. 

Type 2 diabetes is a disease that is typically caused by excess insulin production in the body. When we produce too much insulin, we are unable to properly metabolize and store the food we consume, and this creates unhealthy excursions in blood sugar levels. 

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When we have consistently elevated blood sugars, our body is unable to properly transport oxygen and other nutrients to vital organs, like our kidneys and eyes. When the inside of the eye does not receive sufficient oxygen, eventually new blood vessels can begin to form. These new blood vessels (diabetic retinopathy) significantly increase the risk for bleeding or hemorrhaging inside the eye, as well as other ocular complications like cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachment and permanent vision loss.

Approximately 90% of all patients with diabetes will develop some form of sight-threatening retinopathy over their lifetime.

In the early stages of retinopathy, vision is usually unaffected and patients are monitored annually. When more advanced stages of the disease occur, patients are sent to a specialist and may need to undergo a series of injections, or laser treatments to the back of the eye.

Today, approximately 95% of all diabetes is type 2, with an increasing prevalence in school-aged children and young adults. Environmental, lifestyle, and genetic factors all play a role in developing this largely preventable disease. One of the greatest risks today for developing type 2 diabetes is the excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates, grain-based foods and sugars (even fruit and artificial sweeteners). Each of these can promote the excessive production of insulin, which over time creates insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels.

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It is important for patients with diabetes or those at risk for diabetes to have their eyes checked on an annual basis. In 2014, optometrists identified almost one-quarter of a million patients who had diabetic related ocular changes at their routine exam, but where previously unaware they even had diabetes. Ensuring satisfactory ocular health is a great way to detect undiagnosed diabetes as well as other chronic diseases.