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Protect Your Sight from Diabetes Complications

April 21, 2016
If you’re at risk for diabetes or are living with the disease, there’s one more item you should add to your health to-do list — getting regular eye exams. “Poorly controlled blood sugar can lead to a number of eye problems, so it’s important to work with your primary care physician to make sure your A1C level, which reflects your average blood sugar level over several months, is in the appropriate target range,” explains Tanvi M. Shah, MD, a board-certified ophthalmologist at GBMC.

Poor blood sugar control can cause several vision problems, including:
  • Swelling of the eye’s lens, which causes blurry vision
  • Diabetic retinopathy, a condition in which the blood vessels in the retina leak fluid or abnormal blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina causing gradual loss of vision
  • Cataracts, which cause the lens of the eye to become cloudy, diminishing vision
  • Glaucoma, a condition that increases pressure in the eye and causes fluid build-up, which damages the retina and optic nerve
While cataracts and glaucoma also affect people who don’t have diabetes, if you’re living with this disease, you’re 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts and they may develop at a younger age. Patients who have diabetes are also 40 percent more likely to develop glaucoma.

“If you have fluctuating vision — sometimes it’s blurry, sometimes it’s not — or if you simply can’t see as well as you feel you should, you should make an appointment for an exam with an ophthalmologist,” says Dr. Shah. “The sooner the problem is diagnosed, the sooner we can start treatment to slow its progress and preserve your vision.”

Symptoms you should know

Often, the earliest stages of eye problems caused by diabetes, including diabetic retinopathy, do not cause symptoms. GBMC offers a number of effective treatments for eye problems caused by diabetes, such as:
  • Focused laser treatment to stop the overgrowth of blood vessels and seal leaking blood vessels in the retina
  • Injections of medications into the eye that slow the overgrowth of blood vessels and reduce fluid leakage
  • Surgery to remove scar tissue and fluid build-up in the eye
“The best strategy is to take preventive steps to protect the health of your eyes. Work with your primary care physician to get good, consistent control of your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels,” adds Dr. Shah. “One of the biggest problems is that there are more than 8 million people in the U.S. who have diabetes that is undiagnosed. Since they’re not receiving treatment to control their A1C, the disease can silently damage their eyes for years, so being proactive is important. If you’re at risk for diabetes but have not been diagnosed with the disease, see your primary care physician for regular blood tests to monitor changes in your blood sugar level.”

To learn more about ophthalmology services and primary care at GBMC, visit and or call 443-849-GBMC (4262).
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