Diabetes and Vision: Understanding the Link
Uncontrolled blood sugar can affect you from head to toe—including your eyes. Yet Johns Hopkins research shows that many people living with diabetes don’t have their eyes examined or take other steps that can help save their vision.
Fewer than half of all Americans with diabetes-related eye damage know that diabetes can lead to vision loss—and just 60 percent of those in the know had a complete eye exam in the previous year, finds a recent Johns Hopkins study. This “knowledge gap” could increase risk for blindness if people miss out on early eye checks and vision-protecting treatments, the researchers say. In fact, nearly one in four people in this study already had some loss of vision.
It’s well known that diabetes raises your blood sugar levels. But this chronic health condition also increases your risk for eye diseases that can cause blindness, says Johns Hopkins diabetes expert Rita Rastogi Kalyani, M.D., M.H.S.
“Elevated blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels in the retina—the area at the back of the eye that sends signals to your brain,” says Kalyani. “This damage, called diabetic retinopathy, can begin years before you notice vision changes.” The condition can lead to diabetic macular edema, a leading cause of vision loss in people with diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of new cases of reversible blindness in the United States. About 40 percent of people with diabetes have some degree of retinopathy, according to the National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute. At first, tiny blood vessels in the eye may swell Continue reading