November is American Diabetes Month (Here’s what it means for your eyes)!
Just like that, October is just about gone and you’re busy nursing your Halloween-induced candy hangover. Now is about the time you might start thinking about getting a little healthier, and that candy isn’t likely doing you any favors. Especially when you consider the fact that November is American Diabetes Month, and around here, that means a little something. That’s because Diabetes, while a difficult and life-shortening disease in itself, can have catastrophic consequences on your eyes and vision. If you’re ready to step up your health – and keep your vision working for you – here’s what you need to know.
It can cause blindness
If you take anything away from this blog, let it be this: diabetes can cause blindness. Not only that, but the disease is actually the leading cause of new-onset blindness in adults in the United States. While this might be surprising to you, if you understand what diabetes does to your body, it makes a lot more sense. With diabetes, your body cannot produce or effectively use insulin, which is what your body naturally uses to lower glucose levels in your blood. Without insulin, your blood glucose levels (also called blood sugar) rises, which in turn affects systems and organs throughout your body – including your eyes. Over time, these elevated blood glucose levels can seriously damage your eyes, even causing (you guessed it) blindness.
Diabetic retinopathy is to blame
So how does diabetes cause blindness? Well, diabetic retinopathy is a condition – a serious condition – that causes blindness. This disease is caused when blood vessels in the back of the eye (called your retina) become damaged. These blood vessels can swell and leak fluid into the center of the eye, which in turn can cause blurry vision. In addition, this condition might actually cause abnormal new blood vessels to grow on the surface of the retina, which will also affect your vision.
If you have diabetes (whether diagnosed or not), the chances are good that you’ve already experienced at least some level of diabetic retinopathy. It’s estimated that 45 percent of Americans with Type I or Type II diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy. While a comprehensive eye exam is important for all adults, it’s especially critical for those suffering from diabetes.
Diabetes causes cataracts
A condition that causes clouding of the lens of the eye, cataracts are both unsightly (no pun intended) as well as unattractive. While most people develop cataracts due to their age (about half of people will have experienced a cataract by age 80), cataracts are known to develop earlier in adults who have diabetes. While you might think cataracts are obvious to spot or diagnose, you’d be surprised; it’s possible that cataracts may form on your lens without you knowing. That’s because your eyes are intelligent organs and are able to compensate for vision loss or vision changes. That said, if you notice cloudy or blurry vision, poor or worsening night vision, double vision or notice “halos” around objects, it’s important to talk to your eye doctor.
Your risk of glaucoma is higher
A comprehensive eye exam measures the pressure in the eye. This is extremely important because built up pressure is actually indicative of a disease called glaucoma, which can lead to vision loss and even blindness. For the same reasons diabetes causes other vision issues, it also increases your risk of glaucoma. What is particularly concerning about glaucoma, however, is that you may not notice any symptoms or “warning signs” of the disease. Pressure builds in your eye without causing pain, and eventually you may notice a loss of peripheral vision. Protecting your eye from glaucoma requires early detection, so be sure you’re getting a comprehensive eye exam every year.
Do you or someone your love have diabetes? Take this month to keep your vision top of mind – get a comprehensive eye exam today!