Diabetes is a common disease in the United States. Regular eye examinations are important in diabetes because diabetic eye disease and the vision loss caused by it are completely preventable.
In diabetes, high sugar levels in the blood damage blood vessels throughout the entire body. Damage to blood vessels in the kidneys can cause kidney failure requiring dialysis. Damage to blood vessels in nerves can cause neuropathy. Your eye also has many blood vessels in it, and diabetes can also damage those blood vessels. In particular, high blood glucose levels cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina of the eye. When the retina’s blood vessels are damaged, the retina stops working properly, and sight can be lost.
If you have diabetic retinopathy, at first you may not notice changes to your vision. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes. Background and early proliferative diabetic retinopathy have no symptoms. The only way to know if you have these changes—and need laser therapy to save your sight—is to visit your eye doctor regularly. People with diabetes should have their eye examined at least once a year to make sure they do not have early damage that threatens their vision.