“Diabetes can lead to small-blood-vessel disease. And the eyes have small blood vessels. The longer you’ve had diabetes and the higher your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to get diabetic eye disease, or diabetic retinopathy,” explains Emily Chew, the deputy clinical director of the National Eye Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.
“The small vessels can actually close up, and the body reacts by developing abnormal new vessels, which can cause hemorrhaging and scarring. A bleed in the eye could block vision. It can actually detach the whole retina and cause blindness.”
Lower blood sugar, however, can protect against diabetic retinopathy. “If you have diabetes, you’re doing very well if you keep your hemoglobin A1c—that’s a long-term measure of blood sugar levels—around or below 7 percent,” explains Chew. “We’ve proven in studies that people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who have tight control on their blood sugar have less progression of diabetic eye disease. It could be as much as a 70 percent reduction.”
“That’s tremendous. No drug can give you that. It’s also crucial for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes to manage their blood pressure and cholesterol,” says Chew.
Other relevant links:
- Diabetes increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. See: Diabetes and Diet: Blood Sugar and Dementia
- Can high blood sugar lead to brain atrophy? See: Diabetes and Diet: The Effect of Diabetes on the Brain
- Lose weight to ward off diabetes. See: Diabetes and Diet: How to Prevent Pre-Diabetes from Becoming Full-Blown Diabetes