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July 15, 2011 > Don't Let Diabetes Steal Your Sight

Don't Let Diabetes Steal Your Sight

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 is a disease that affects the whole the body by damaging its smallest blood vessels, which are called capillaries," according to Washington Hospital Medical Staff ophthalmologist Sarbjit Hundal, M.D. "The high sugar levels that are characteristic of diabetes cause these blood vessels to begin leaking and bleeding, and this leads to damage to organs throughout the body."

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

"During the upcoming seminar, I will discuss diabetes and how it impacts eyes, as well as how to minimize the side effects of diabetes as it relates to vision," he says.

When characterizing cataracts, a common cause of vision loss in people over age 40, Dr. Hundal says this clouding of the eyes' lenses is often a symptom of getting older, but not always.

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

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

"Cataracts gradually cause your vision grow cloudy as the lens of the eye becomes affected," Dr. Hundal says. "As the vision becomes less and less clear, eventually it will start to impact daily activities-including driving, reading and watching TV.

"The question patients have is: What can you do? If the cataracts are mild and early, usually you don't take any action, because the condition doesn't impact daily function. Later, many patients will need to have surgery to remove the lens-and replace it-if the condition 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 how diabetes impacts their eye health.

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 then use lasers to seal the leaking bleeding vessels so that the problem does not go on to cause blindness."

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

"Diabetes can cause a lot of damage over time, but even temporary high blood sugar levels can bring on blurred vision," he says. "When the glucose in the blood becomes too high for even short periods, it changes the shape of the lens and the eye itself, causing short-term vision problems."

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

"If you have diabetes, follow the guidelines set forth by your physician," Dr. Hundal concludes. "A yearly eye checkup is necessary for most diabetic patients, because allows us to diagnosis early on any disorder you might have."

To learn more about conditions of the eye and how diabetes impacts them, 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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