Diabetes can cause 4 kinds of problems with your eyes including cataracts. Cataracts are one of the most common causes of visual impairment in diabetics. Cataracts occur at an earlier age and 2–5 times more frequently in patients with diabetes, overall, up to 20% of all cataract procedures are estimated to be performed for diabetic patients.
What Is A Cataract
A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye that impairs vision. Cataract formation associated with diabetes often occurs because of excess levels of sorbitol (a sugar formed from glucose), which form deposits within the lens.
Sugar enters the natural lens in the eye. Sugars are changed to “sorbitol” inside the lens. Sorbitol can not exit the lens as easy as sugar, but sorbitol, too, like sugar, attracts water.
The end result? The lens takes on water and changes it’s focusing powers …causing blurry vision.
As a diabetic, if our blood sugars are high we regularly get blurred vision which will go away once our blood sugars are back in control, but if our eyes have to much sorbitol over a longer period of time it will damage the protein in our eye.
Types of cataracts include:
- A subcapsular cataract occurs at the back of the lens. People with diabetes or those taking high doses of steroid medications have a greater risk of developing a subcapsular cataract.
- A nuclear cataract forms deep in the central zone (nucleus) of the lens. Nuclear cataracts usually are associated with aging.
- A cortical cataract is characterized by white, wedge-like opacities that start in the periphery of the lens and work their way to the center in a spoke-like fashion. This type of cataract occurs in the lens cortex, which is the part of the lens that surrounds the central nucleus.
What Causes Cataracts?
The lens is mostly made of water and protein.
But as we age or if you have persistent high blood sugar levels some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. This is a cataract, as the cataract continues to develop, the clouding becomes denser and involves a bigger part of the lens. A cataract blocks the light as it passes through the lens, preventing a sharply defined image from reaching your retina. This is why you then get blurred vision. Do not mistake this blurred vision with the blurred vision diabetics get regularly when blood sugar levels are high and you are dehydrated causing water retention in your eyes.
What are the symptoms of a cataract?
The most common symptoms of a cataract are:
- Cloudy or blurry vision.
- Poor night vision.
- Glare. Headlights, lamps, or sunlight may appear too bright. A halo may appear around lights.
- Colours are faded.
- Double vision
- Frequent prescription changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Treatment For Cataracts
The symptoms of early cataract may be improved with new eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses. If these measures do not help, surgery is the only effective treatment.
What happens during cataract surgery
Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. This lens will remain a permanent part of your eye. An artificial lens is not suitable for everybody, especially those with other eye problems, in this case, your cloudy lens will be removed and you will have to wear special glasses.
The operation takes between 30-45 minutes, you will have drops to dilate the pupil first. Most people stay awake during surgery, you will have an anesthetic to numb the nerves in and around your eye. You can be put to sleep if you wish.
After cataract surgery
After the operation, a patch will be placed over your eye. You will be monitored for a while to see if there any problems, such as bleeding. Cataract surgery is generally done on an outpatient basis, which means you won’t need to stay in a hospital after the surgery. You will have some discomfort and itching of the eye for a few days and may also have some discharge from your eye which is normal, this can last for a few days.
Clean your eye by dipping cotton wool into cool boiled water, then starting from your nose wipe your eye gently outwards, do not press hard, and don’t let water into the eye. You will probably need to do this a few times a day.
Your doctor may ask you to use eyedrops to help to heal and decrease the risk of infection. Avoid rubbing or pressing on your eye., don’t allow soap or shampoo to get in your eye, don’t do any heavy housework or wear make up for at least 4 weeks,
It takes in most cases around eight weeks for the eye to be completely healed.
If you have cataracts in both eyes, your doctor will remove the cataract in the second eye after you’ve healed from the first surgery.
The feeling should start to return to your eye within a few hours of surgery, it will take a few days for your vision to fully return. If you need new glasses, you won’t be able to order them until your eye has completely healed. Normal hobbies and activities like driving will be able to resume after healing,
Cataract surgery is generally safe,, success rates after cataract removal is very high at improving your eyesight.but it carries a risk of infection, bleeding and other eye problems like loss of vision, double vision, and high or low eye pressure. With prompt medical attention, these problems can usually be treated successfully. There is a very small risk of about 1 in 1,000 of permanent sight loss in the treated eye.
How To Help Prevent Cataracts
The one main thing you can do as a diabetic to prevent cataracts developing is to keep your blood sugar levels as tightly control as you possibly can (easier said than done, I know). Eat a healthy balanced diet containing many vegetables, fruit, and other foods with antioxidants. You must have heard about carrots and eyes during the war, the root vegetable is rich in beta-carotene, a naturally occurring pigment that nourishes the eye.
Ultraviolet light from the sun damages your eyes and can cause many eye problems including cataracts, its advisable for all diabetics to protect there eyes in the sun with a pair of sunglasses. To protect your eyes from damaging UVB and UVA rays, wear sunglasses with large lenses or even wraparound lenses that offer 99% to 100% UVA and UVB radiation protection.
A study in 2006 by the National Eye Institue called AREDS2 researched what supplements if any are good for protecting your eyes from disease, they came up with a formation of the following:
- 500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C
- 400 international units of vitamin E
- 80 mg zinc as zinc oxide
- 2 mg copper as cupric oxide
- 10 mg lutein and 2 mg zeaxanthin
Participants in the AREDS2 study took one of four supplement formulations that had been identified as potentially beneficial in the AREDS study. Each participant took the supplement daily for five years.
Your eyes are affected by many factors, including genetics and age. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and eating a balanced diet that contains antioxidant-rich foods can contribute significantly to the health of your eyes.
Diet should always be your primary source of vitamins and minerals. However, the National Eye Institute advises that the high doses found in AREDS2 can’t be obtained from diet alone.