Diabetes and The Eye

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November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Currently 10 million Canadians have diabetes or are pre-diabetic. Diabetes can lead to severe eye damage or blindness so immediate eye exams/screening and ongoing eye care for diabetics is imperative.

What is Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition in which the body has difficulty controlling the amount of sugar in the blood. In patients with diabetes the blood sugar is higher than it should be, which causes the body not to function well. Insulin produced by the pancreas controls the blood sugar. In diabetes, insulin is either not being produced or is ineffective in regulating the blood sugar.

There are three forms of diabetes, Type I, Type II and Gestational.

Type I diabetes is generally diagnosed earlier in life, usually under the age of 40. Patients with Type I diabetes have an autoimmune condition, where the immune system is damaging the cells in the pancreas, causing insulin to not be produced. These patients are dependent on insulin injections.

Type II diabetes is usually diagnosed in older patients. These patients can be producing insulin but the insulin is not effective in controlling the blood sugar. In some Type II diabetic, the pancreas may not be producing enough insulin, but the cause is not autoimmune as it is in Type I.

Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnancy. It usually resolves once the baby is delivered. However these patients are more susceptible of developing Type II diabetes when they get older.

How Can Diabetes Damage Eyesight

Uncontrolled diabetes can have a profound negative effect on the eye. Diabetic eye disease is leading cause of blindness among working age adults in North America.

Diabetic eye disease include cataracts, glaucoma and retinopathy. Unfortunately, diabetes and eye damage go hand in hand. Keep in mind, eye exams can detect diabetes but also other health conditions so examinations are vital.

Cataracts is a clouding of the vision, due to changes in the lens. Treatment for cataracts is lens replacement surgery.

Glaucoma is a condition where the eye pressure is elevated causing damage to the vision cells. In glaucoma patients lose their peripheral vision and can go blind in the later stages of the disease. Patient can preserve their vision by taking drops to lower the pressure of the eyes. There are also surgical procedures available to patients to lower the eye pressure.

Diabetic retinopathy is damage to the retina (the back of the eye). The blood vessels in the retina breakdown and can leak blood and fluid into the eye. This breakdown can cause blindness. Diabetic retinopathy is treated with laser therapy.

95 percent of blindness caused by diabetes can be prevented by early detection and treatment.

It is imperative for patient with diabetes to have regular comprehensive eye exams with their optometrist. OHIP covers a full comprehensive eye exam yearly for patients with diabetes. Follow ups if needed are also covered by OHIP.

Here are six things you can do to prevent diabetic eye disease:

  • Have a comprehensive eye exam yearly with your optometrist
  • Take your medications as prescribed
  • Get active and exercise regularly
  • Track and maintain a healthy blood sugar
  • Control you blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Maintain a healthy body weight

Schedule your next comprehensive eye exam at Envision Eye Care.

Envision Eye Care, Oakville’s Premiere Optometrists.