Diabetics May be at Greater Risk of Glaucoma

Most diabetes patients are aware that they stand a higher risk of suffering eye damage or even vision loss as a result of their condition, and that they must take extra care.  Regular eye examinations should be carried out to check whether the diabetic shows any symptoms of the complication called diabetic retinopathy.

Now doctors have warned that diabetics are also at risk from another serious eye disease, glaucoma, especially if they also have raised blood pressure. However, the risk is lowered if the patient has hyperlipidaemia or high levels of fat in the blood.

Diabetics may suffer many types of complications in the long term because of the damaging effect high blood sugar levels have on tissues and organs in the body.  Effective control of blood sugar levels will lower the risk of these effects, which include heart disease and stroke, neuropathy in the hands and feet, which can lead to gangrene, kidney failure and coma.

Vision loss is another complication, which some diabetics develop.  Diabetic retinopathy may affect the eyes of diabetics when blood vessels in the retina, the light sensitive surface at the back of the eye on which images are seen, are damaged.  The retina can no longer function or send images to the brain properly, and vision loss or even blindness is the result.  Symptoms may include blurred or double vision, difficulty reading and floaters in the eye.

Glaucoma is another serious condition caused by increased pressure in the fluids of the eyeball.  Approximately 90% of cases are open angle glaucoma, which usually manifests no symptoms such as pain or vision “haloes” and is often undiagnosed until vision loss occurs.

Diabetic retinopathy is known to be a factor in glaucoma.  However, a recent study published in the journal Ophthalmology reports that researchers at theMichiganMedicalSchool,Ann Arbor, found diabetics were at increased overall risk of glaucoma.  People with hypertension were also at increased risk, and when the two conditions were found in combination the risk was still greater.  Hypertension has long been believed to be a cause of glaucoma, and diabetics are advised to try to keep their blood pressure down because of the increased risk they run from heart disease and strokes.  However, the study found hyperlipidaemia lowered the risk.

The study involved case histories of patients aged 40+ who were enrolled in a managed care network from 2001 to 2007.  The patients’ histories included one or more eye check-ups in the period, and the research adjusted for racial factors, medical conditions and other eye diseases.

With diabetes, the leading cause of blindness in theUSthe study is useful in alerting doctors and diabetics to the dangers and emphasizing the need for extra care.  There are 25.8 million diabetics in theUS, and 79 million people with the condition pre-diabetes, in which some symptoms are seen and the patient usually goes on to develop full diabetes.  Some 74.5 million Americans have raised blood pressure, and both conditions are on the increase because of the obesity crisis. The study will therefore help identify people who are at increased risk of glaucoma.

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