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Diabetes and Eye Health in Willow Glen

Many people are familiar with diabetes and how it can cause a person to have dangerously high blood sugar. It is much less well known, however, that diabetes can also cause a great deal of damage to your eyes if not properly monitored and controlled. Diabetes can really wreak havoc on your sense of sight.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Dr. Lucy Yen of Eye Luv Lucy, in the Willow Glen area of San Jose explains, “Among the most dangerous conditions diabetes can cause is diabetic retinopathy. This results from extended periods of high blood sugar, and is divided into two distinct types.”

The earliest stage of retinopathy is what is known as “non-proliferative retinopathy.” Extended periods of high blood pressure damage blood vessels in the retina, causing them to begin leaking fluids and blood into the eye. Deposits of cholesterol from the blood can also leak into the retina, causing further damage. Fortunately, diabetic retinopathy at this stage is rarely sight threatening. However, in rare cases, swelling or thickening of the macula caused by fluid leaked into the eye may cause the macula to function improperly, causing a condition known as “macular edema.” This is the number one cause of vision loss caused by diabetes.

The second stage of diabetic retinopathy is known as “Proliferative diabetic retinopathy.” This more advanced stage is marked by a general closing of the many blood vessels in the eye, which prevents proper blood flow. In an effort to compensate for the closed off blood vessels, the retina begins to grow new blood vessels, which are abnormal, and are unable to properly supply blood flow to the retina.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is generally more serious and sight threatening than non-proliferative retinopathy. This is because very serious complications are much more likely to arise, such as traction retinal detachment. This is a condition in which the wrinkling of the retina causes distortions in vision and may become very severe if large parts of the macula or retina become detached.


People in the Willow Glen community that suffer from diabetes are also much more likely to develop cataracts. This condition is characterized by a clouding of the vision caused by clumps of protein forming in the lens of the eye. Usually cataracts are not something that the younger population needs to worry about, but in the case of diabetics cataracts often form at a younger age, and the condition progresses much faster in those suffering from diabetes. If the cataract becomes bad enough, that is to say it significantly hinders a person’s ability to see, the lens must be removed and replaced by an artificial lens in order to restore vision. Studies have shown, however, that a person’s retinopathy can worsen and glaucoma may start to develop as a result of removing and replacing the lens.


People with diabetes are also at a 40% higher risk for contracting glaucoma, and this risk increases as a person ages. This condition occurs when fluid pressure inside the eye builds up and damages the optical nerve. With glaucoma, damage is done slowly, and a person may not realize they are losing their vision until significant damage has been done.”

It is important to always stay on top of your eye health by having a yearly eye exam at Eye Luv Lucy. This is even more true for those who have diabetes. Schedule your appointment with us, today!

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