Diabetes creates a number of health complications, including risks to your eye health. In Canada, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness.
While properly managing your diabetes can help decrease these risks, the best way to protect your eyes is with regular eye exams. Regular eye exams can detect eye diseases that are difficult to notice on your own. With early diagnosis, you can get the treatment needed to protect your eyesight as soon as possible.
If you have diabetes, Alberta Health covers the cost of one eye exam per year.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss associated with diabetes. Diabetes can damage blood vessels in the body, including in your eyes. Specifically, high blood sugar can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive structure in the back of the eye.
As the blood vessels are damaged, the retina grows new ones. But these new vessels break easily, causing them to leak fluids onto the retina, which then causes vision loss. Symptoms are mild in the early stages, but in later stages, you may notice vision problems like spots and blurriness.
If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can progress to diabetic macular edema. Diabetic macular edema leads to more severe and rapid vision loss and is often the ultimate cause of blindness in people with diabetic retinopathy.
When you have diabetic retinopathy, fluids leak onto the retina. These fluids can cause swelling in the surrounding tissues, particularly in the macula, which is the central part of the retina. The macula is responsible for central vision so this swelling can lead to dramatic vision loss.
People with diabetes have an increased risk of glaucoma, and glaucoma can happen as a result of diabetic retinopathy. In diabetic retinopathy, irregular blood vessels can grow on various areas of the eye, including the iris. Irregular blood vessels on the iris can cut off fluid flow and prevent eye fluid from draining. This leads to an increase in eye pressure, which is one cause of glaucoma.
People with diabetes also have an increased risk of cataracts, and several studies show cataracts happen earlier and more often in diabetics. It’s not fully understood why this happens, but like other diabetic eye diseases, high blood sugar levels are likely a factor.
A standard eye exam will be able to detect all of the above diseases. However, it’s important to tell your optometrist if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. That way, your optometrist can do a thorough diabetic eye exam, which includes:
Most diabetic eye disease has no clear warning signs, especially in the early stages. You might notice spots or blurriness as the disease progresses, but by this point, the damage to your vision is usually irreversible.
The best chance at protecting your sight from diabetic eye disease is with early diagnosis during an eye exam. That way, your optometrist can begin treatment as soon as possible. Depending on how advanced your eye disease is, possible treatments include:
Come visit our beautiful optometry clinic located in the heart of Sherwood Park, just east of Edmonton. We are easily accessible off of Bethel Drive, north of Baseline Road.
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|Tuesday:||9:00 AM - 8:00 PM|
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|Thursday:||9:00 AM - 8:00 PM|
|Friday:||9:00 AM - 5:00 PM|
|Saturday:||9:00 AM - 3:00 PM|
Alberta Health Care covers eye exams for children 18 and under and seniors 65 and over for a basic eye exam. Adults between the ages of 19 and 64 are covered for medically necessary visits by Alberta Health Care.