Diabetes is a systemic disease that can impact the eye in many different ways. The primary problem in diabetes is that small blood vessels become diseased and in some cases blocked throughout the entire body.
The first consequence of this in the eye is that the vessels become leaky and allow for blood cells and other components of the blood to leak into the retina itself. This can cause hemorrhaging and swelling to develop in the part of the eye that is responsible for good clear reading vision. This then leads to impaired vision which usually requires some form of treatment.
The second consequence is that vital structures within the eye are deprived of oxygen. In response to this, particularly in the retina, new blood vessels can begin to form in a vain attempt to bring oxygen to the tissue. These vessels never succeed in solving the problem but they do bleed very easily. This bleeding can lead to a catastrophic loss of vision. Surgery is sometimes necessary to remove the blood from the inner cavity of the eye.
There are many other ways that diabetes can affect the eye. These are but two examples. It underscores the importance of diabetic screening eye exams at least yearly. If you are diabetic and haven’t had an eye check in a year, now is the time!