High blood glucose levels can damage blood vessels in the back of the eye, leading to several conditions that can cause poor vision or blindness. Patients with Type 1, Type 2, and even gestational diabetes must take care to protect their eye health with regular checkups and by carefully controlling both their blood glucose levels and blood pressure. Damage can begin to occur before a patient even recognizes symptoms.
The four main eye diseases that can threaten a diabetic’s eye sight are:
High pressure can damage the optic nerve that connects the retina and the brain. Optic nerve damage causes vision loss that can be permanent. High sugar levels can sometimes cause so much damage to the retina’s blood vessels that the body has to make new ones. If the new blood vessels grow on the iris (the colored part of your eye), it will cause your eye pressure to increase. And that can lead to glaucoma that is difficult to control.
When the lens of your eye becomes cloudy, that is called cataracts. Cataracts develop naturally with age, but tend to develop faster and worsen more quickly among patients with diabetes. Symptoms include cloudy, blurred vision and sensitivity to light. Surgery can be performed to replace the cloudy lens with an artificial one when cataracts interfere with daily activity.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss among patients with diabetes with about one-third of patients older than 40 showing signs of this condition. Some patients notice periodic changes in their vision, such as trouble reading or seeing distant objects. As the disease progresses, blood vessels in the retina may start to bleed, causing patients to see dark, floating spots or streaks. Other symptoms include difficulty seeing at night and loss of peripheral vision. Without treatment, the bleeding can get worse or cause scarring. The damaged blood vessels in the retina can eventually close off, causing the growth of new, weaker blood vessels. This is known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic Macular Edema
This condition usually develops along with diabetic retinopathy. Too much blood sugar can damage or block the blood vessels in the retina, making bulges in the vessel walls that can leak fluid onto the retina. The fluid causes swelling, which can make vision blurry or wavy. This serious eye complication can cause vision problems or even blindness.
Treatment for Diabetic Eye Conditions
It's not possible to completely reverse retinopathy, macular edema, or glaucoma, but treatment can keep vision loss from progressing. Medication, surgery, and laser treatment can be effective, and your doctor will discuss the best options for your case. Some injectable medications reduce swelling, prevent the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the eye, and stop fluid leaks. Medications can often stop vision loss and may improve some patient’s vision. Laser treatment can be used to treat leaky blood vessels and fluid buildup, called edema. Laser treatment typically can’t restore lost vision, but it can help to prevent further loss. Surgery, called vitrectomy, can be performed to treat severe bleeding or scar tissue caused by diabetic retinopathy. Cataracts surgery is a routine procedure to replace cloudy lenses.
What you can expect at the Cizik Eye Clinic
The Cizik Eye Clinic opened in 2007 and is housed in Memorial Hermann Plaza at 6400 Fannin Street. It includes dozens of exam areas, multiple operating rooms, and laser suites equipped with the most sophisticated equipment available for patient care.
People travel from across the country and the world for treatment at the Cizik Eye Clinic, in part because our affiliation with the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth provides unmatched resources and expertise. Our friendly staff works diligently to make your visit pleasant and efficient, as we maximize patient flow through everything from routine eye exams to the most advanced eye surgeries.
Our physicians are faculty members at McGovern Medical School and are board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology or are board eligible. At the Cizik Eye Clinic, we understand that the eye is a small part of a whole patient who deserves top-notch, comprehensive care in a cutting-edge facility.
At Robert Cizik Eye Clinic, we offer patients access to highly specialized eye and vision care. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-9400, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.