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    Eye Problems and Diabetes

    Glaucoma continued...

    You may not have any symptoms of open-angle glaucoma until the disease is very advanced and you have significant vision loss. Your doctor can catch it earlier, during your annual exam.

    With a less common form of glaucoma, you might notice:

    • Headaches
    • Eye aches or pain
    • Blurred vision
    • Watering eyes
    • Halos around lights
    • Vision loss

    Treatment can include special eye drops, laser procedures, medicine, or surgery. Surgery and laser treatments improve the eye's drainage.

    People with diabetes are also more likely to get an uncommon type of glaucoma, called neovascular glaucoma. New blood vessels grow on the iris, the colored part of the eye. These block the normal flow of fluid out of the eye, raising the pressure.

    It's difficult to treat. One option is laser surgery to cut back on the vessels. Doctors are also studying the use of implants to help drain the fluid.

    Diabetic Retinopathy

    The retina is a group of specialized cells on the back of your eye that take light and turn it into images. The optic nerve then sends that information to your brain.

    retinopathyLarge Diabetic retinopathy happens when small blood vessels in your retina are damaged. (Kidney disease and nerve damage are also microvascular complications.) It's related to high blood sugar levels. If it's not found early or isn't treated, you could go blind. It's the leading cause of irreversible blindness in industrialized nations. 

    The longer you have diabetes, the greater your chances of developing diabetic retinopathy. You can lower your risk by keeping your blood sugar controlled.

    People with type 1 diabetes rarely develop retinopathy before puberty. In adults, it's rare to see retinopathy unless you've had type 1 diabetes for at least 5 years. A large study showed that people who kept tight control of their blood sugars with either an insulin pump or multiple daily injections of insulin were 50%-75% less likely to develop retinopathy, nephropathy (kidney disease), or nerve damage (all small blood vessel complications).

    People with type 2 diabetes usually have signs of eye problems when they're diagnosed. Control your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol to help slow the progression of retinopathy. Stop smoking, too.

    • Background retinopathy. Your blood vessels are damaged, but you can still see OK. This can get worse if you don't take care of your diabetes.
    • Maculopathy. A critical area of your retina called the macula is damaged. It can significantly reduce your vision.
    • Proliferative retinopathy. New blood vessels start to grow in the back of the eye because the cells there aren't getting enough oxygen. These vessels are fragile. They can bleed and eventually cause a clot, which scars and causes the retina to pull away from the back of your eye. Retina detachment can lead to vision loss that can't be fixed.

    Sometimes you can treat diabetic retinopathy with laser procedures or surgery. In a study, laser therapy that burned the fragile blood vessels prevented blindness in half the people with early retinopathy.

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