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Proper Glucose Control is Key in Prevention of Vision Problems For Diabetics

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Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness in the United States. It is estimated that more than 14 million Americans have some form of diabetes. Public health officials expect that by 2050 there will be more than 48 million diagnosed cases in the United States.

Diabetes is caused when the pancreas either does not produce enough insulin or cannot process insulin properly. The disease brings numerous complications to the eyes, including fluctuations in eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions; cataracts at a younger age; increased risk of developing glaucoma; and diabetic retinopathy, which represents the most serious risk.

The retina is the wall-like structure that lines the back of the eye; it consists of light-sensitive tissue and a network of blood vessels. In diabetes, blood vessels in the retina can leak fluid, blood, or build up cholesterol on the retina. It’s also possible for abnormal blood vessels to form and cause severe bleeding and scarring of the retina.

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Diabetic retinopathy often remains in an advanced stage without accompanying symptoms and is then more difficult to treat.

The effects of diabetic retinopathy vary from case to case, but some common symptoms include blurred vision and a sudden, temporary loss of vision. In late stages of the disease, abnormal vascular growth can lead to retinal detachment and glaucoma.

The longer a person lives with diabetes, the greater their risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. After five years with diabetes, a person’s risk of developing it is about 20 percent; after 15 years, the risk increases to about 80 percent. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in people ages 20 to 64 in the United States

Studies have shown that those who have good diabetes control and who carefully monitor their glucose levels have a lower risk of developing vision-threatening complications. In addition, it is important to treat high blood pressure. Also, smokers are more likely to have high blood pressure and higher blood sugar levels, making diabetes more difficult to control. Quitting smoking and maintaining good glucose and blood pressure levels can reduce the risk of vision problems associated with diabetes.

Diabetic retinopathy is generally treated with laser beams, which both seal off the leaking blood vessels and prevent more from developing. Laser treatment is often successful in preserving vision when retinopathy is caught early, but is unable to restore vision that has already been lost.

Although diabetic retinopathy is the most severe visual impairment, blurred vision and cataracts can also affect people with diabetes. Blurred vision can be an early symptom of diabetes and can also occur if the disease is not well controlled. With cataracts, the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, leading to blurred or blurred vision. It generally affects people as they age, but it can also affect younger people with diabetes. Treatment involves removing the clouded lens and replacing it with a special inert plastic lens called an intraocular lens.

Most vision loss from diabetes is preventable. It’s important for diabetics to have their eyes checked annually, even if they don’t have vision problems.

Thanks to Chelsea Francis

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