Eye Conditions Caused by Diabetes
Eye problems caused by diabetes are quite common among people dealing with this health condition, the ailment being the leading cause of blindness among people aged 20 to 74 according to statistical data provided by the National Institute of Health (NIH) .
The autoimmune disease appears when blood sugar levels remain higher than normal for days or even weeks, this condition being known as hyperglycemia. While after meals it’s perfectly normal for your blood glucose to increase, in some people the internal mechanisms responsible for bringing blood sugar levels back to their optimum values are altered.
We’ll explain this problem in very simple words, starting by saying in a healthy body the pancreas secrets a hormone called insulin which is involved in breaking down carbohydrates to glucose and transporting sugars to cells for energetic needs. As you surely know, carbs are present in lots of foods, from vegetables and fruits to sweets.
Under certain circumstances, the pancreas either releases too low amounts of insulin or the secreted hormones are not processed as they should once reaching the cells and tissues. Although a part of the resulted glucose is eliminated through excretion, the remaining amount alters the blood flow, resulting in various health conditions among which eye problems caused by diabetes.
How Does Diabetes Affect your Eyesight?
If you take a look at your eyes’ anatomy, you’ll see there’s a very delicate tissue lining the inner surface of your ocular globes and this membrane is called retina. Whenever light enters your eyes, it triggers a series of reactions during which the beam passes through a lens and it is focused onto the light-sensitive retinal tissue.
As this happens, cells composing the ten layers of your retina convert light into electrical signals which are then transmitted to your brain along the optic nerve, located in the center of the retina and considered part of the central nervous system.
But in order to function properly, the retinal tissue needs a constant blood supply which is ensured by the ophthalmic arteries and their tiny branches composing the blood vessels network inside the eye. It’s these vessels that are usually damaged in eye problems caused by diabetes so this is the main mechanism through which the autoimmune ailment affects sight.
However, people dealing with this health condition may also experience vision problems caused by other triggers, affecting not only the retina but the other tissues composing the eye as well. Hyperglycemia is proven to alter the lens’ structure, causing it to become cloudy and favoring the occurrence of blurry vision.
Although not all diabetes sufferer accuse sight problems, the great majority of patients dealing with this ailment experience complications sooner or later, so knowing which are the most frequent eye problems induced by this health condition, getting familiar with their symptoms and learning how these complications can be managed and treated is essential for keeping them under control.
Common Eye Problems Caused by Diabetes
There are three main conditions triggered by this ailment and affecting vision, all of them manifesting through different symptoms and requiring specific therapies in order for normal sight to be restored:
• Diabetic retinopathy
We’ll take each of these common eye problems caused by diabetes and see how they appear and how they affect the sufferer’s health state and quality of life.
The most common complication caused by diabetes when it comes to eyes’ health is retinopathy, ailment occurring when blood vessels supplying the retina get damaged due to an increased blood viscosity, triggered by the prolonged presence of excess glucose into the bloodstream.
This leads to either hemorrhages or micro-aneurysms, the first ones manifesting as tiny spots of blood leaking into the retina while the second ones are small bulges forming inside the blood vessels due to fluid accumulation. Neither of these causes vision loss as long as the macula, an oval-shaped spot on the retina responsible for high-acuity vision, is not affected.
However, when macular edema occurs, a series of eye problems caused by diabetes start manifesting and these include blurred vision, concentration problems, headaches and nausea.
Cataract is not always triggered by diabetes but it’s accentuated by this ailment, as certain proteins found inside the lens stop working properly when blood sugar levels remain high for longer than normal. These proteins are involved in reducing glucose to sorbitol, a substance found inside the human body, respectively in turning sorbitol to fructose (a form of sugar) inside the lens.
When the functioning of these proteins is altered due to hyperglycemia, sorbitol starts accumulating inside the lens and triggers the liquefaction of lens fibers, leading to the occurrence of cataract or lens opacity. As a result, blurred vision appears and the only solution for restoring normal sight is represented by the surgical removal and replacement of the lens with a glass or plastic one.
More information about cataracts.
Last on the list of eye problems caused by diabetes is glaucoma, which appears when too much fluid is produced inside the ocular globe and the drainage is not performed properly. As fluid accumulates inside the eye it keeps exerting pressure on the nerves located at the back of the globes, causing vision problems that progress from loss of central sight to blindness.
More information about glaucoma.