While everyone should see an eye doctor regularly, people with diabetes should be especially cognizant of keeping their eye examination appointments. There is a significant relationship between diabetes and cataracts, and if left unchecked and uncontrolled, this can lead to serious vision problems.
The Basics about Cataracts
If you have a cataract, the lens of your eye becomes cloudy, and things look blurry, hazy, or less colorful. You may experience blurry vision, double vision, sensitivity to light, and trouble seeing at night.
The most common cause of cataracts is aging. Other causes include heredity, medical problems such as diabetes, eye injury, sun damage, and the use of certain medications.
The Basics about Diabetes
Diabetes is a condition in which the body does not properly turn food into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. In a normal function, the pancreas makes insulin to help glucose get into cells. For diabetics, the body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use insulin as it should, leading to sugar buildup in the blood.
Among other health issues, diabetes can cause heart disease, blindness, and kidney failure, and it is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to cataracts, other vision problems associated with diabetes include diabetic macular edema.
In some cases, there may be no sign of diabetes. If there are signs, they may include frequent urination, excessive thirst, unexplained weight loss, extreme hunger, sudden vision changes, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, feeling very tired much of the time, very dry skin, and sores that are slow to heal, according to the CDC.
The Relationship Between Diabetes and Cataracts
As described by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the eye’s lens gets nutrients from fluid in the front of the eye, which also provides oxygen and glucose. However, if you don’t have control over glucose levels, sugar levels rise in the fluid and the lens, causing the lens to swell.
The lens also has an enzyme that converts glucose to sorbitol. When sorbitol collects in the lens, it can affect cells and naturally occurring proteins, which can cause the lens to become less clear and more opaque. This can eventually lead to cataracts.
If you are concerned that you may have diabetes or if you are experiencing vision problems possibly due to cataracts, a thorough eye examination can help resolve both of these questions. Despite the relationship between diabetes and cataracts, controlling diabetes and regularly seeing your eye doctor can help decrease the risks of vision problems.