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Posted on 05-03-2016

Does Diabetes Lead to Glaucoma?

Among the many ways that diabetes can ravage the body, eye problems are high on the list. Those with untreated diabetes are at higher risks for blindness and eye problems such as glaucoma, where the risk factor is 40% higher as compared to the general population

How Glaucoma Changes Normal Eye Functioning

In an eye that functions normally, light passes through the curved area of the eye known as the cornea, which both protects the eye and focuses light. The light then travels through the anterior chamber of the eye, which is filled with aqueous humor, a protective fluid, then through the pupil (a hole in the iris, the colored part of the eye), and then through a lens for additional focusing. Finally, light traverses through another fluid-filled chamber in the center of the eye (the vitreous) to strike the back of the eye or the retina, which records image, converts them to electrical signals, and sends them to the brain for decoding.

Glaucoma results when pressure builds up in the eye and causes the aqueous humor to drain slowly and build up in the anterior chamber. When the pressure on blood vessels to the retina and the optic nerve increase, the result is damage and loss of vision.

Diabetes And Primary Open Angle Glaucoma (POAG)

The most common type of glaucoma is known as primary open angle glaucoma (POAG), which often presents no symptoms until the disease is advanced and there is vision loss. Someone suffering from the early stages of this problem might experience a pain in the eyes, headaches, halos around lights, blurred vision, watering eyes, and reduced vision.

POAG is a risk for those with Type II Diabetes, which often develops later in life. In contrast to Type I diabetes patients, where there is a complete loss of the cells in the pancreas that make insulin, those who suffer from Type II diabetes still have plenty of active cells and can, in fact, make more insulin than people without the disease. The blood sugar levels can become so high that insulin does no good at lowering them; they become “insulin resistant.” While some patients with this condition must take medication to lower blood sugar, often diet and exercise can lower insulin resistance.

More than 47 studies that included 3 million people show that there is a relationship between Type II diabetes and POAG, yet in the world of ophthalmology, this is a controversial finding. Some professionals maintain that diabetics are often observed more closely than other segments of the population, which increases the likelihood that glaucoma will be found.

Prevent Major Complications With Frequent Eye Exams

For diabetics, this extra scrutiny is good news. Finding glaucoma in its early stages can prevent debilitating vision loss. Ophthalmologists will typically perform several tests to detect the presence of glaucoma and the severity of it. If glaucoma is present, the doctor will often prescribe drops as a first step to reducing pressure in the eye.

While your ophthalmologist or optometrist will test for glaucoma during your annual exam, you should schedule an exam any time you feel your eyesight is compromised. Contact Eye Site of Texas in Katy at 281.644.2010 or in Memorial at 713.984.9144.

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