Diabetes increases the risk of developing cataracts at an early age. Learn how to take care of your eyes with advice from the Cataract & Comprehensive Ophthalmology Department at Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC).
diabetes are especially prone to cataracts.
A cataract generally does not cause eye irritation nor pain, but it is the most common cause of blindness in the world. Although anyone can get a cataract, people with diabetes are especially prone to it and other eye conditions like
diabetic retinopathy and
A person with diabetes can develop a cataract at an early age, and the condition is likely to progress more rapidly in diabetics than in people who don’t have diabetes. This is because high blood sugar in diabetes can cause changes in your eye, such as swelling or clouding of the lens, which can affect your ability to see. Fortunately, a cataract is treatable with surgery.
What is a cataract?
A cataract is a condition in which the lens of your eye turns cloudy, preventing sufficient light from entering your eye, therefore reducing vision. Eventually, this deterioration in vision will interfere with your daily activities, such as reading or driving a car (particularly at night).
“Most cataracts develop slowly and you may not notice it in the earlier stages of the condition. However, your vision will be affected as the clouding progresses,” explains Dr Chan Jin Hoe, Consultant from the Cataract & Comprehensive Ophthalmology Department at Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), a member of the
Are cataracts dangerous?
Cataracts are not dangerous to eye health unless they become completely white. This condition, called an overripe or hypermature cataract, can cause raised eye pressure and present suddenly with redness and pain in the eye, as well as headaches. If a cataract causes inflammation and raised eye pressure, it will need to be removed.
Causes of cataracts and its risk factors
While cataract formation is associated with ageing and is common in the elderly, diabetics are particularly susceptible to this eye condition. As with other conditions associated with diabetes, your risk of developing a cataract is reduced if you maintain good control of your blood sugar level.
Other causes and risk factors of cataract include:
Prolonged UV light exposure
Prolonged use of corticosteroid drugs
Prior eye injury or inflammation: This is particularly true of young people in whom cataract can be associated with
inflammatory eye disease, or due to injury
Prior eye surgery
Symptoms of cataracts
If you have diabetes, the first sign that you may have a cataract is clouded, blurred or dim vision that cannot be corrected with the usual corrective visual aids such as glasses.
Other signs and symptoms of cataract include:
Difficulty seeing at night that worsens with time
Sensitivity to light and glare
Seeing halos around lights
The need for bright light when reading and performing other tasks
Fading or yellowing of colours
Double vision in one eye
How to prevent cataracts
These tips will help prevent cataracts:
Control your blood sugar
level if you have diabetes.
Research has shown that in those with diabetes, cataracts may tend to occur at an earlier age than those without the disease. Younger patients with diabetes under the age of 65 may be three to four times more likely to develop cataracts compared to non-diabetic patients of similar age.
In older patients with diabetes over 65, the risk of cataracts was still found to be twice that of non-diabetes patients of similar age. The main risk factors are longer duration of diabetes and poor metabolic control. People with Type 2 diabetes can reduce their risk of developing cataracts by 19%, by lowering their HbA1c level by just 1% over time.
In older patients with diabetes over 65, the risk of cataracts was still found to be twice that of non-diabetic patients of similar age. The main risk factors are longer duration of diabetes and poor metabolic control [1,2].
Patients with Type 2 diabetes can reduce their risk of developing cataracts by 19%, by lowering their HbA1c level by just 1% over time .
Go for regular eye examinations.
A regular eye examination is the key to early detection. Have your eyes checked every year by an eye care professional if you have diabetes.
Protect your eyes.
Protect your eyes from UV light by wearing sunglasses regularly.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle and eat a balanced diet.
Quit smoking (if you haven't)
Read on to find out about the
various treatment options available for cataracts.
1) Klein BE, Klein R, Moss SE. Prevalence of cataracts in a population-based study of persons with diabetes mellitus. Ophthalmology. 1985;92:1191–1196.
2) Ederer F, Hiller R, Taylor HR. Senile lens changes and diabetes in two population studies. Am J Ophthalmol. 1981;91:381–395.
3) Association of glycaemia with macrovascular and microvascular complications of Type 2 diabetes: prospective observational study British Medical Journal 2000; 321: 405-412.