Diabetes and Your Eyes By Dr. Andrew P. Royer – Optometrist Falcon Family Eye Care 7685 McLaughlin Rd, Ste 130 Falcon, CO 80831 Fast facts about Diabetes – Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is now the number one cause of blindness in the 20-to 74- year-old age group in the U.S. An estimated 5,800 Americans lose their vision each year due to diabetic eye disease. Each day approximately 2,200 people in the United States are diagnosed with diabetes. Approximately 21 million children and adults – 7% of the population – have diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 50 million U.S. residents could have diabetes by the year 2050. Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce enough insulin or utilize the insulin that is produced effectively resulting in elevated levels of sugar in the blood. These elevated levels of sugar are hard on the blood vessels and can cause them, and the surrounding tissue to become swollen and leaky. The effect on the blood vessels are not limited to any one area of the body; it can effect every organ system if the blood sugar levels are not maintained to adequate levels as determined for that individual. The eyes are unique to the body for various reasons. Regarding diabetes, they are one of the only places we can directly observe live blood vessels interacting with each other without the use of high tech equipment (i.e. MRI, etc). The dilation process during an eye exam is necessary to properly evaluate the blood vessels in the eye and retina. This is an important process in the management of diabetes because if the effect of diabetes is occurring in the eyes, it is likely occurring elsewhere in the body. Diabetic eye disease occurs when the effects of diabetes begin to manifest in the eyes. These problems can cause severe vision loss or even blindness. The following are a list of the most common types of eye conditions seen with diabetes: Prescription changes - Elevated blood sugar can directly affect the lens in the eye by causing it to shrink and swell. Often high blood sugar levels are consistent with a more near-sighted (myopic) shift and low blood sugar levels are consistent with a more far-sighted (hyperopic) shift. Delayed corneal healing - This is specifically important for diabetic patients that wear contact lenses. Minor abrasions and irritations to the corneal surface take longer to heal and place the patient more at risk for eye infections, specifically if the patient is abusing the wearing schedule or not using proper hygiene techniques to care for their contact lenses. Cataracts – Clouding of the eye’s lens which develop more frequently and/or at an earlier age in people with diabetes. Glaucoma – Increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that leads to optic nerve damage and loss of vision. A person with diabetes is nearly twice as likely to get glaucoma as other individuals. Diabetic Retinopathy – This is the most significant cause of vision loss due to diabetes. It occurs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels inside the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels will swell and leak fluid. In others, abnormal blood vessels will grow on the surface of the retina. Individuals who have diabetes are at risk for developing diabetic eye disease, but not all diabetics will develop these complications. Common symptoms of these complications include but are not limited to: blurred vision, flashes of light and floating objects in vision, difficulty reading, double vision or sudden loss of vision. If any of these symptoms occur contact an eye care professional as soon as possible. To decrease the risk of developing diabetic eye disease, as well as complications to other organ systems, appropriate blood sugar control should be maintained. This can be achieved by maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise, and keeping all recommended appointments with medical providers (including having a dilated eye exam every 12 months). For more information regarding diabetes and its effects on the eyes please call Dr. Andrew Royer at (719) 886-4770 or come by and see us at Falcon Family Eye Care located at 7685 McLaughin Rd, Ste 130, Falcon (located at the East side of Safeway Parking Lot next to Checkers).