Why You Need an Optometrist on Your Diabetes Care Team

Some of the responsibilities that come with diabetes are well-known — foot care, weight management, and blood sugar regulation. But many people don’t realize that diabetes puts your eyes in danger, too. 

Our team of experienced optometrists, Dr. Bill Ceraso and Dr. Ada Noh, here at Bellmawr Eye Care, understands the direct link between diabetes and your eye health, and they can detect and treat the eye conditions common in people suffering from this disease. Here’s what you need to know.

The link between diabetes and eye health

When you eat a cookie, or pasta, or any other type of carbohydrate, your body turns that into sugar (glucose) and releases it into your bloodstream. Then, your pancreas kicks into action and produces a hormone called insulin to transport the glucose into your cells so you can use it as energy.

But if you have diabetes, your body is either unable to produce its own insulin (type 1 diabetes) or can’t process insulin properly (type 2 diabetes). Either way, it means the glucose levels in your blood remain high — also called high blood sugar — which puts you at risk for a long list of health problems. And you can add vision conditions to that list, because high blood sugar can damage the small blood vessels in your eye.

Diabetic retinopathy

Having too much glucose in your blood can block the blood flow in the tiny vessels of your eyes, particularly the ones near your retina at the back of your eye. In an attempt to fix the problem, your eyes generate new blood vessels, but they are often weak and leaky. 

This condition can sneak up on you without warning, so it’s important to have your eyes checked regularly. Once symptoms appear, the disease is already well-established. Signs of diabetic retinopathy include:

Dibetic retinopathy is a progressive disease that you want to slow down as quickly as possible to avoid losing your vision. The best way to do this is to manage your blood sugar diligently. If the damage is already severe, you may need surgical treatment to stop the leakage of blood from the vessels in your eyes. 

Diabetes and glaucoma

Glaucoma is a condition caused by excess pressure build-up in your eyes that occurs when the fluid that normally flows in and around your eye gets blocked. The increased pressure damages the optic nerve. Like diabetic retinopathy, early glaucoma symptoms can be hard to detect, and once you do notice them, your case may be advanced. 

Eye pain, headaches, red eyes, and nausea are few things to watch for in glaucoma, but the best way to know for sure if you have it is to come in and see us regularly. When we know you have diabetes, we make it a priority to check your eye pressure during each visit, so we can nip glaucoma in the bud. 

Don’t underestimate your risk for glaucoma and the potential loss of vision — about 40% of all diabetics get it, and diabetics get it about twice as often as nondiabetics.

Diabetes and cataracts

Does it seem as if you’re looking through a dirty window or a misty haze? This is what vision is like when you have cataracts — a cloudy film over the lens of your eyes. It might also cause you to see spots, circles around lights, yellow tones, or dazzling bright lights. 

If you have diabetes, you have a 60% greater chance of getting cataracts in your eyes than people without diabetes. The good news is that if you manage your blood sugar well, you may be able to decrease your risk of getting cataracts by 19%.

We can treat this condition with cataract surgery, a safe and common procedure that replaces your damaged lens with a new one.

Caring for your diabetic eyes

Clearly, diabetes can easily and quickly affect your vision and often does so with no fair warning. That's why it’s so important to include us as part of your comprehensive diabetic care team. In addition to controlling your blood sugar and cholesterol, you should schedule annual check-ups with our team to monitor the health of your eyes. To get started, call us today to schedule a diabetic eye exam at our Bellmawr, New Jersey, office.

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