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Donít Let Diabetes Steal Your Sight

July 15, 2011

Seminar Covers Cataracts and Other Diabetes-Related Eye Conditions

If you are living with diabetes, there are countless health issues to be aware of, simply because the disease’s effects are so widespread.

"Diabetes affects the whole the body by damaging the small capillaries," according to Washington Hospital Medical Staff ophthalmologist Sarbjit Hundal, M.D. "In general, high sugar levels cause capillaries to begin leaking and bleeding, and that causes damage to organs throughout the body."

Next Tuesday, July 19, Dr. Hundal will talk specifically how diabetes affects common eye conditions such as cataracts.

"I will be discussing diabetes, how it impacts eyes, and how to minimize the side effects of diabetes as it relates to patients’ vision," he says.

When it comes to cataracts, Dr. Hundal says this condition is typically a symptom of getting older, but not always.

"The appearance of cataracts is simply an aging condition," he says. "However, diabetes and other rare disorders can cause it in younger patients, as well as long terms prednisone use."

Notably, the U.S. National Library of Medicine lists diabetes as one of the main risk factors that has the potential to speed the onset of cataracts. Whereas mild clouding of the lens is relatively common after age 60, it may not cause any vision problems. By age 75, most people will have cataracts that affect their vision. However, uncontrolled blood sugar levels can cause individuals to develop cataracts much earlier.

"Cataracts gradually cause your vision go cloudy as the lens of the eye starts to become clouded or hazy," Dr. Hundal says. "Eventually it will start to affect activities including driving, reading and watching TV as the vision becomes less and less clear.

"What can you do? If it is mild and early, you don’t do much, because it doesn’t impact daily function. Beyond this, you need to have surgery to remove the lens and replace it if it does progress."

Dr. Hundal will explain what cataracts are, what causes them, how surgery is performed, expectations for surgery, and how the condition impacts daily function.

"Diabetes-related eye conditions are fairly prevalent; in fact they are two of the most common conditions that cause vision loss as patients get older," he explains. "It’s important to be aware of diabetes and eye health and patients need to know what diabetes can do to your eyes. Early screening is essential to preventing ongoing complications.

"Ultimately, if you can control diabetes, you will minimize the side effects, including those that affect the eyes. With early checkups, we can identify the problem and use lasers to seal the leaking bleeding vessels so the problem doesn’t go on to cause blindness."

While diabetes is related to many long-term issues related to the eyes—including cataracts and diabetic retinopathy—there’s also good reason to watch even brief spikes in blood sugar.

"Diabetes can cause a lot of damage over time, but even temporary high blood sugar levels can bring on blurred vision because when the glucose in the blood is high, it changes the shape of the lens and also the eye," Dr. Hundal says.

Overall, for anyone with diabetes experiencing vision problems, it’s important to seek medical care sooner rather than later, he says.

"If you have diabetes, follow the guidelines," Dr. Hundal concludes. "A yearly eye checkup is necessary for most diabetic patients, because this way you can diagnosis any disorder early."

To learn more about conditions of the eye and how they are affected by diabetes, attend the free Health & Wellness seminar presented by Dr. Hundal on Tuesday, July 19, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, Rooms A & B, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont, across the street from the main hospital.

To register for this class, visit www.whhs.com and click on the "Cataracts and Diabetes Eyes Conditions" link under "Upcoming Seminars" and select "Attend This Event"; or call (800) 963-7070.

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