How Does Diabetes Affect the Eyes
Diabetes is the single leading cause of vision loss and blindness in Canada. High blood sugar levels related to diabetes can impact your retina, the light-sensitive lining at the back of your eye. Your retina plays a significant role in your sight, collecting light as visual information and transmitting it to your brain via your optic nerve.
Temporary high blood sugar levels can cause short-term blurred vision, but high blood sugar levels over an extended period can damage your retina, resulting in diabetic retinopathy and other complications.
When Should You Have an Eye Exam?
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye disease affecting those with diabetes. It occurs when damage to the blood vessels that supply the retina causes them to bulge, break, and leak blood and fluid into the eye.
When these blood vessels are damaged, your eye will compensate by growing abnormal and weak vessels that break easily. Damaged and leaking blood vessels deprive the retina of oxygen, which can cause irreversible vision loss.
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy can develop without symptoms or pain. However, some people may notice changes in their vision, like trouble reading or seeing distant objects.
As the disease progresses, broken blood vessels can leak into the vitreous, a clear, colourless fluid that makes up 80% of your eye, causing floating spots that can look like streaks or cobwebs. Although these shadows (called floaters) will often clear up on their own, if you have diabetes, you should immediately let your optometrist know if you start seeing them.
Complications of Diabetic Retinopathy
Untreated diabetic retinopathy can lead to several complications that affect your eye health.
- Leaking blood vessels can cause a condition called macular edema, in which fluid builds up in the macula, the part of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision, causing it to swell. This swelling can lead to blurred vision and even vision loss.
- Abnormal blood vessels can grow out of the retina and block fluid from draining from your eye, causing your internal eye pressure to increase. This can lead to a type of glaucoma called neovascular glaucoma, which can result in vision loss and blindness.
- Abnormal blood vessel growth can also cause scarring on the back of your eye. Your retina can detach from the back of your eye due to this scarring, causing floaters and flashes and may result in vision loss.
Treatments for Diabetic Retinopathy
Early diabetic retinopathy will likely not need treatment. Instead, we’ll closely monitor your condition with dilated eye exams a few times a year. We’ll use advanced diagnostics, including OCT images, to look for changes in your retina that may be a sign your condition is worsening.
Advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy may require:
- Anti-VEGF injections: These injections can slow down or reverse diabetic retinopathy.
- Laser treatments: These treatments reduce retinal swelling and can shrink blood vessels and stop them from leaking.
- Eye surgery: If you have a lot of bleeding or scar tissue in your eyes, you may require a procedure called a vitrectomy. This surgery removes your vitreous and replaces it with another solution.
Long-Term Care for Your Eyes
If you have diabetes, regular eye exams are an important tool for protecting your vision. At Dr. David Oliphant Optometry, we have the skills, experience, and technology to care for your eyes long-term, regardless of your vision needs. Call us today to schedule an appointment.
Come Visit Us
Our practice is located on the corner of Grand Avenue East and Woodland Avenue. We have a large parking lot off Woodland Avenue with accessible parking and entrance.
- 412 Grand Avenue East
- Chatham, Ontario N7L 1X1
Hours of Operation
- Monday: 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM
- Tuesday: 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM
- Wednesday: 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM
- Thursday: 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM
- Friday: 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM
- Saturday: Closed
- Sunday: Closed