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Diabetes and the Eye

Diabetes Mellitus has been diagnosed in over 14 million individuals in the United States. There are two basic forms of diabetes. Type II diabetes or non-insulin dependent diabetes (NIDDM) is also known as adult onset diabetes. It is most typically diagnosed in adults who tend to be overweight. Type II diabetes is most typically treated with oral medications; however a significant number of these individuals do require insulin therapy.

A more severe form of diabetes is termed Type I diabetes, or insulin dependent diabetes. Also known as juvenile onset diabetes, this form tends to require insulin therapy. Although eye complications can be found with both forms of diabetes, Type I diabetes has more frequent and severe ocular complications.


Our Optometrist Treats Eye Complications Related To Diabetes

There are numerous complications that can occur in the eye secondary to diabetes, some of which are mild, insignificant, or transient and others of which are severe and vision threatening. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among patients under the age of 65. Eye complications of diabetes include:

  • Significant and sudden shifts in vision prescription (large increases in nearsightedness or farsightedness). This is associated with changes in blood sugar levels and its effect on the focusing lens of the eye.
  • Acute diplopia (double vision). Double vision associated with diabetes tends to be binocular (one of the two images will go away if you close or cover one eye). It tends to be transient, lasting generally days to weeks at most. It is due to compromised blood flow to the nerves that control the external eye muscles.
  • Cataract development. Cataracts tend to develop earlier and more significantly in people with diabetes.
  • Glaucoma. Diabetes is a relative risk factor for the development of glaucoma. A rare, but very severe form of glaucoma called “neovascular glaucoma” is found in advanced diabetics.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy is the most feared complication of diabetes.