If you have diabetes, there's one eye disease that should be on your radar screen: diabetic retinopathy, which can cause blood vessels in the retina to leak fluid or bleed, distorting vision in the process. The underlying reason: Chronically high blood sugar from poorly controlled diabetes can lead to damage to the tiny blood vessels in the retina, which can lead to vision loss and blindness in the worst-case scenario.
Diabetic retinopathy affects some 8 million Americans age 40 and older and is the most common eye complication of diabetes. More than 70 percent of people with type 2 disease will eventually develop some evidence of retinopathy—in most cases without experiencing any vision loss. However, diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness and is the most frequent cause of blindness in adults ages 20 to 74.
The good news is, if you have diabetes, the more tightly you control your blood sugar, the less likely you are to get diabetic retinopathy. You should also pay attention to your blood pressure, lipids, such as cholesterol and tryglycerides, and body weight, which may also be risk factors for diabetic retinopathy.
People with diabetes should make sure to schedule an annual visit to an ophthalmologist, because early detection and treatment of diabetic retinopathy can protect one's vision, according to the National Institutes of Health. Even so, 60 percent of people with diabetes in the United States skip annual eye exams, according to research from Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. That's a shortsighted mistake, to say the least. People with diabetes should pay special attention to eye health in general.