Diabetics are susceptible to eye problems. Untreated diabetes is one of the major causes of blindness. However, the risk of vision problems can be minimized by keeping the blood sugar level under control and through regular eye check ups.
Diagnosing a diabetes-related eye problem at the early stage helps to restore vision by preventing further damage to the eye with appropriate treatment.
Diabetics have a higher risk of developing glaucoma, cataract and retinopathy. To prevent vision loss, it is necessary to start treatment as soon as these problems are diagnosed.
Ways to Treat Diabetic Eye Problems
Compared with non-diabetics, diabetics have 40 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with glaucoma. Glaucoma, characterized by increase in pressure in the eye, develops when the drainage of aqueous humor from the eye slows down. It damages the optic nerve and retina, leading to vision loss. Glaucoma can be successfully treated with medications and surgery.
The pressure in the eye can be reduced with medications. Doctors recommend a single ophthalmic solution or a combination of eye drops for treating this condition. Occasionally oral medications are used for treating glaucoma. Alpha adrenergic agonists such as apraclonidine, epinephrine, brimonidine and dipivefrin work by increasing outflow and reducing production of aqueous humor.
Beta-blockers such as metipranolol, timolol, carteolol, betatoxol and levobunolol reduce the eye pressure by decreasing aqueous humor secretion and facilitating its drainage from the eye. Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors are available in the form of eye drops as well as pills. They work by decreasing aqueous humor production.
Miotics such as pilocarpine and echothiophate increase drainage of the fluid from the eyes and reduce the diameter of the pupil. By improving fluid drainage, prostaglandin analogs such as bimatoprost, latanoprost, tafluprost and travoprost help to reduce pressure in the eyes. However, medications cannot provide long-term relief from glaucoma. Surgery or laser therapy is recommended for curing this eye disorder and restoring normal vision.
Diabetics have almost 60 percent higher risk of developing cataract than non-diabetics. At the early stage of cataract, wearing glasses with glare control lenses or sunglasses can reduce vision problems. However, surgery is the only option for restoring the normal vision. Treatment involves removing the lens and replacing it with artificial lens. In diabetics, risks of developing glaucoma and retinopathy increase after cataract surgery.
Retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in diabetics. The risk is especially higher in people with untreated diabetes. To prevent permanent vision loss, treatment should begin at the early stage of retinopathy.
When retinopathy is diagnosed at the early stage, progression of diabetic retinopathy can be arrested or slowed down with strict blood glucose control. Surgery is required for treating proliferative diabetic retinopathy and advanced nonproloferative retinopathy. Surgical procedures normally used for treating retinopathy include focal laser treatment, scatter laser treatment and vitrectomy.
Focal laser treatment, also called photocoagulation, helps to stop leakage of fluid and blood from the abnormal blood vessels in the eyes. Scatter laser treatment or panretinal photocoagulation is used for shrinking the abnormal blood vessels in the eye. The scar tissues and blood that have accumulated in the middle of the eye are removed with the vitrectomy.