Does Diabetes Cause Glaucoma?
Can it be shown that diabetes frequently causes glaucoma? If so, what is the connection? George Kolesar, Lutz, Florida
Janis McWilliams, RN, MSN, CDE, BC-ADM, responds: Glaucoma has long been considered one of the eye complications that can affect people with diabetes. One rare form, neovascular glaucoma, is definitely associated with diabetes. Another type, open-angle glaucoma, is much more common. Scientists are "quite divided," however, over whether open-angle glaucoma has a particular link to diabetes, says Alon Harris, PhD, director of clinical research at the Indiana University School of Medicine's Glick Eye Institute.
What to Know: Glaucoma occurs when there is a gradual increase in the normal fluid pressure inside the eyes. The increased pressure can damage the optic nerve, causing vision loss. Glaucoma is an insidious disease, because there are no symptoms until there is a loss of peripheral (side) vision. If glaucoma is left untreated, the result can be complete vision loss. The longer someone has had diabetes, the chances of developing glaucoma increase. The risk for glaucoma in everyone grows with age.
Find Out More: About 90 percent of all people with glaucoma have open-angle glaucoma. This condition is characterized by a slow clogging of the drainage canals that typically prevent too much liquid from building up in the eye. Too much liquid results in increased eye pressure that can damage the optic nerve. The less-common neovascular glaucoma that tends to be associated with diabetes occurs when new, abnormal blood vessels grow on the iris, the colored part of the eye. These blood vessels block the normal flow of fluid out of the eye, raising the eye pressure.
Possible Solutions: Treatment of glaucoma can include special eye drops, laser procedures, medications, or surgery. Surgery and laser treatments are directed at improving the eye's drainage of fluid.
Takeaways: Early detection is the key to treating glaucoma successfully and keeping the disease from worsening. It is important to have a glaucoma test as part of your yearly dilated eye exam, especially if you have diabetes. Also, maintaining glucose control should lower the risk of complications, including those of the eye.