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For older adults with diabetes, loss of vision is a serious problem. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to increasingly blurry vision, even to blindness. The good news is that with timely treatment, careful control of blood sugar levels and regular follow-up, vision loss from diabetes can often be reduced or even eliminated.
The most common form of vision loss is diabetic retinopathy for those with diabetes. It takes place when high blood sugar causes tiny blood vessels in the eye to grow and occasionally leak blood and other fluids onto the retina.
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:
In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, people may not experience any symptoms. For that reason, it is important to have an eye exam every year. By getting their vision tested every year, people with diabetes can get an early diagnosis for any potential problems. With that yearly examination, doctors will typically check for:
Damage to vision can be held at a minimum by keeping blood sugar and blood pressure levels under control. It also helps to take all medications as prescribed, staying active and eating proper foods. But the best way to prevent diabetic retinopathy is to get tested. With an eye exam, the doctor can also test for other diabetic eye disorders identified by the National Eye Institute , part of the National Institutes of Health, including:
Prevention is Key
If you have diabetes it’s important to have your vision tested, even if you have no symptoms. While most diabetes-related eye problems are relatively minor, blindness from diabetes-related complications is still a major issue.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) says most people with diabetes may develop eye disorders like “floaters” (dark spots or strings floating in your vision), blurred eyesight, or less-than-perfect color vision. But the ADA also says nobody should be lulled into false security and offers insight and information on eye care and eye complications to avoid problems that may eventually lead to blindness.
Major eye disorders linked to diabetes include:
See your eye doctor at least once a year if you have any type of diabetes and more often if your doctor directs. It’s a small price to pay to keep your eyesight.
Originally published 5/14/2018; Revised 2019
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Last Updated 10012018Y0096_WEB_IL_CONNECT19_C