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Diabetes and Your Eyes

Here is a startling statistic. Diabetes is the leading cause of new blindness for those 20 to 74 years old. In fact, a person with diabetes is 25 time more likely to go legally blind than a person without diabetes. Why does this happen?

In diabetes, a person’s body either cannot produce insulin or more commonly cannot use it properly, causing the sugar glucose to run wild. This weakens the blood vessels in the entire body. In the eye in particular, fluid leakage from these vessels causes a lack of oxygen to the retina. This bleeding starts a cycle of new fragile blood vessel growth in the eye, which in turn, causes more bleeding. With time, this can lead to permanent vision loss.

Who is most at risk for diabetes? Studies have shown that those over age 45 and those who weigh more than 120% of their ideal weight are more at risk. A waist measuring over 40 inches for a man and over 38 inches for woman is a risk factor. Those who suffer from high blood pressure and high cholesterol are also in danger of developing diabetes.

I am often asked how a person would recognize if diabetes is affecting the eyes. Some folks notice blurred vision that seems to come and go, but most do not notice any symptoms at all. The only way to confirm if diabetes is causing vision loss is to have a complete eye examination with a dilated retinal evaluation. The longer a person has diabetes and the more out of control it is, the greater the chance for eye damage. Stable sugar can decrease risk of blindness by 16% and slow progression if existing disease by 63%. That’s a lot.

Diabetes is a serious condition. Get a dilated eye examination yearly.