How Diabetes can Affect your Eyes

From EyeSmart News, by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Diabetes is a disease that affects the body’s ability to produce and/or use insulin in amounts sufficient to control blood-sugar levels. There are three types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational, which may develop when a woman is pregnant:

  • Type 1: Usually diagnosed in children and young adults and previously known as juvenile diabetes. In this form, the body does not produce insulin.
  • Type 2: The most common form of diabetes. Either the body does not produce enough insulin or the body’s cells ignore the insulin.
  • Gestational: Blood-sugar levels (glucose) become elevated during pregnancy in women who have never had diabetes before. Gestational diabetes starts when the mother’s body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs during pregnancy.

People with any type of diabetes can develop hyperglycemia, which is an excess of blood sugar, or serum glucose. Although glucose is a vital source of energy for the body’s cells, a chronic elevation of serum glucose causes damage throughout the body, including the small blood vessels in the eyes. As a result, if you have diabetes, you run the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, in which damage occurs to the delicate blood vessels inside the retina at the back of the eye. You are also at increased risk for developing cataracts (clouding of the normally clear lens in the eye), or glaucoma (a disease that results in damage to the optic nerve).

More than 24 million Americans have diabetes and the number is growing, but only half of them get the recommended annual dilated eye exam. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults, but 90 percent of vision loss can be prevented. An annual dilated eye exam can help prevent vision loss in people with diabetes.

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