More than 11% of Americans have diabetes, which is a chronic disease that affects the way the body uses blood sugar, or glucose. That includes nearly 9 million people who have diabetes but haven’t yet been diagnosed.
Diabetes allows your glucose to build up to unhealthy levels, which, in turn, increases your risks for a host of health problems, including cataracts. In fact, people with diabetes are up to four times as likely to have cataracts compared with people who don’t have diabetes.
Rodrigo Belalcazar, MD, PLLC, and the team at Advanced Eye Center in Hialeah, Florida, use advanced techniques to diagnose and manage cataracts. If you have diabetes, here’s how it increases your risk for cataracts and how we can help.
Diabetes and cataracts
Cataract is the word used to describe the clouding of the eye’s natural lens. Normally clear, your lens allows light to enter your eye and reach the light-sensitive retina at the back of your eye. When the lens is cloudy, light is prevented from reaching the retina correctly, which can lead to significant problems with your vision.
Although researchers aren’t sure how diabetes causes cataracts, they believe it’s a combination of factors. Excess glucose appears to increase the risk for early cell death (apoptosis) while also increasing swelling in the eye, leading to a breakdown in the lens fibers. Over time, the fibers can become “sticky” and form clumps that cloud the lens and block light.
Cataracts tend to develop slowly, with symptoms appearing gradually as the lens becomes more and more cloudy. With severe cataracts, the lens is completely clouded, causing a complete or almost-complete loss of vision.
Symptoms to look for
Because cataracts tend to form slowly, symptoms can be subtle. Some of the earliest symptoms to look for include:
- Blurry vision
- “Faded”-looking colors
- Difficulty seeing in dim light
- Requiring brighter and brighter lights to perform activities
- Sensitivity to light
- Seeing halos around lights
You can have a cataract in one or both eyes.
Cataracts won’t go away on their own, and they can’t be treated with medication, either. Although you may be able to compensate in the early stage of cataracts by using brighter lights or magnifying lenses, eventually you’ll need to have cataract surgery to restore clear vision.
The good news is cataract surgery is simple and very common. In fact, it's the most common surgical procedure in the United States, with nearly 4 million cataract extractions performed every year.
During cataract surgery, your eye is numbed, and Dr. Belalcazar uses special instruments to remove the cataract, replacing it with an artificial lens. Performed on an outpatient basis, recovery from cataract surgery is quick, and once the natural lens is removed, you can never develop a cataract in that eye again.
Diabetes and your eyes
Even though scientists don’t entirely understand how diabetes and cataracts are linked, the one thing you need to know is that if you have diabetes, your risk for cataracts is much higher. Having regular eye exams is essential for managing cataracts and other eye problems that are more common with diabetes.
To schedule an annual eye exam or discuss any changes in your vision, call 305-707-6011 or book an appointment online with Dr. Belalcazar today.