Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye. While they are common in the aging population, it’s important to know that they can occur at a much earlier age when you have diabetes.
What Causes Cataracts
As you age, the lenses of your eyes become less flexible, less transparent and thicker. When you have diabetes, high blood sugar (blood glucose) levels over time can lead to structural changes in the lens of the eye that can accelerate the development of cataracts.
If you have diabetes, you might be at greater risk for developing cataracts depending on how long you’ve had it, the frequency of glucose levels above your target range and the presence of macular edema—fluid build-up in the macula (located in the center of the retina). You may not notice cataracts, since symptoms can be minor until clouding affects the center of the eye, at which point the cataract can progress rapidly. Other causes of cataracts:
- Family history
- Eye injury
- Eye surgery
- Repeated eye injections
- Spending a lot of time in the sun without UV sunglasses
- Using certain medications, such as corticosteroids
Know the Symptoms
- Cloudy or blurry vision
- Seeing double in one eye
- Seeing halos around lights
- Being extra sensitive to light and glare
- Having trouble seeing well at night
- Bright colors seem faded
How to Prevent Cataracts
- Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- Do not smoke—and if you currently do, quit! You can get help by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669)
- Wear sunglasses with UV protection
Manage your glucose to stay within your target range (usually 80-180 mg/dL)
Know What to Do if You Get Them
If you start developing a cataract, you may be able to see better if you:
- Use brighter lighting
- Wear anti-glare prescription glasses and sunglasses
- Use magnifying lenses when needed
- Talk to your eye doctor about updating your eyeglass prescription
Cataract Surgery: The Ultimate Treatment
The purpose of your lens is to bend light rays that come into the eye to help you see. Surgery removes the clouded lens and replaces it with an artificial lens. The artificial lens is placed in the same spot as your natural lens and remains a permanent part of your eye.
Cataract surgery can be done in either an outpatient setting or in a hospital. Your eye will be numbed with eye drops or with an injection around the eye. You will be awake during surgery and may see light and movement during the procedure, but you will not feel or see what the doctor is doing to your eye. The surgery itself may take only 10 minutes, but before you leave, you may need several hours of recovery after the procedure.
Recovering After Cataract Surgery
Here are some things to keep in mind after a cataract surgery:
- You may have to use eye drops after surgery
- You will be asked to not rub or press on your eye
- Your eye doctor (ophthalmologist) may ask you to wear eyeglasses or a shield to protect your eye
- Full sight recovery may take several weeks
- Complications from surgery can arise, but aren’t common
If you have a cataract, consult with your eye doctor to find out the treatment options that are right for you. Find more resources to protect your eye health.