Diabetes And Cataracts

Posted on: 12 May 2017

Diabetes can affect every part of you body, including the delicate tissues of your eyes. One of the problems that diabetics are more at risk for is having cataracts earlier and progressing faster than non-diabetics. However, there are ways to reduce your chances of getting cataracts early, or at least slow down their progression if you find that you have them. Here is more information on cataracts, why diabetics get them earlier than other people, and what you can do once you have them.

What are cataracts?

Cataracts are the clouding of the lenses in the eyes. Just about everyone is prone to getting cataracts at some time in their lives, usually not until they're older. In addition to diabetes, other risk factors of getting them early include smoking, medications and a high amount of unprotected exposure to sunlight. It is common to have a cataract in only one eye, but possible that both eyes can be affected. Though cataracts can affect your eyesight, they don't actually damage to the eye.

Why are diabetics more likely to get cataracts?

The reason has to do with the chronically high levels of glucose in your bloodstream. The lenses of the eyes have an enzyme which takes that glucose and turns it in to sorbitol. However, when your sugar levels are high, the sorbitol also builds up and causes the lens to swell causing your vision to blur. You may have noticed this during times when you know your sugar is high. Often, the blurriness is temporary and goes back to normal when your blood sugar levels go down. However, if this happens often, it can eventually lead to cataracts.

What are the symptoms of cataracts?

The symptoms come on so gradually that you may not even realize you have cataracts until your eye doctor tells you. You will notice that your vision doesn't seem to be very good at night, even though you can see perfectly fine during the day. You may find yourself more sensitive to glare and bright light and you may see halos. It will seem like your glasses prescription needs constant adjusting.

How can diabetic reduce the risk of cataracts?

The biggest thing you can do as a diabetic is to keep your blood sugar under control. Doing this will keep the sorbitol levels low and reduce chronic swelling in the lens. All diabetics, even those who have never needed glasses, should have a regular eye exam so that cataracts are caught early.

The good thing is that there is a routine surgery to remove the cataract and replace it with an artificial lens so that you can see more clearly. To do this, your diabetes must be well controlled to reduce complications. When and whether you want to do this is up to you. If you can correct it with glasses and it's not bothering you, then whether or not you have the surgery is your choice. Contact your ophthalmologist and optometrist, such as Northwest Ophthalmology, to work out a plan to keep your cataracts from affecting your life.