DR. KEITH HILLIARD: Eye health is vital
November is National Diabetes Month and it is a good reminder that all diabetics should be under the care of an eye care professional.
Diabetes can increase the risk of many ocular problems, like refractive changes, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetes affects blood vessels and it is common to have some new blood vessel growth when diabetes is uncontrolled. These new blood vessels can grow into structures in the front of the eye that produce and drain the fluid in the front of the eye.
If the fluid is unable to drain, the pressure within the eye builds up and causes damage to the optic nerve. This is known as diabetic glaucoma and requires a laser treatment.
A cataract is formed when the clear lens inside the eye is no longer clear. There are several types — they can be caused by sun exposure, trauma, diabetes, etc.
When blood sugar is high, sorbitol collects inside the lens and makes it cloudy.
The lens is permanently damaged from this collection of sugar and reduces vision.
The only way to improve vision disrupted by cataracts is to surgically remove and replace the lens.
Since diabetes affects the small blood vessels in the body, they become weak and susceptible to leaking.
The back of the eye is the only place in the body where blood vessels can be seen without being disrupted.
A dilated eye exam will help give an indication if blood sugar levels are under control. Any damage in the eye is a sign that there is most likely similar damage throughout the body.
Diabetes can damage the retina when bleeding occurs by not allowing enough blood to the retina, or new blood vessels grown where they do not belong. These problems can be treated with a laser, but uncontrolled and untreated diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness.
The best way to prevent ocular complications due to diabetes is to have good blood sugar control. Every diabetic should see their primary care doctor for blood work and their eye care professional for a dilated eye exam at least once a year.