5 Things Diabetics Need To Know About Open-Angle Glaucoma

Glaucoma is sometimes thought of as one disease, but the term refers to a group of eye disorders. What these disorders have in common is that they damage the optic nerve in the back of the eye. People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing a particularly serious type of glaucoma, open-angle glaucoma. Here are four things you need to know about this condition.

What is open-angle glaucoma?

Open-angle glaucoma, also called primary or chronic glaucoma, is the most common type of the disease. It's caused when the drainage canals on the outside of your eyes become clogged over time.  These drainage canals transport fluid out of your eye, so as they become clogged, less fluid can drain out. This leads to increased pressure inside the eye. Since the clogs develop slowly, you may not notice the symptoms until it's too late.

Why is it serious?

Open-angle glaucoma is a serious problem because it can sneak up on you. Since the damage happens slowly, you may not notice changes in your vision or may think they're just a normal part of aging.

The first part of your vision that will be lost is your peripheral vision. At this stage, you may start having trouble driving or doing other tasks that require being able to see objects that are beside you, like sports. As the condition worsens, the vision loss will spread inwards, which will leave you with tunnel vision. At this point, you will probably realize that something isn't right, but by this point, it's too late.

Does diabetes cause it?

Many studies have explored the relationship between diabetes and open-angle glaucoma. A meta-analysis of thirteen of these studies found that each study reported similar findings. Overall, people with diabetes are 1.4 times more likely to develop open-angle glaucoma than non-diabetics are.

Diabetes is a risk factor for open-angle glaucoma for multiple reasons. Having high blood sugar levels for a long time can increase the risk of injury and swelling inside your eyes. Blood flow to the eyes is also decreased in people with diabetes, which can lead to oxygen deficiency and swelling in the tissues. 

How is open-angle glaucoma treated?

The goal of treatment for this condition is to lower the pressure inside your eye and halt the progression of damage to your optic nerve. Your optometrist may prescribe medicated eye drops. These eye drops will help your eyes make less fluid, or they may help your eyes drain fluid. If the eye drops don't work, or if you have trouble remembering to use them, you may need to have surgery. 

Many different types of surgery are available for treating glaucoma, including laser surgery. Laser surgery is a simple procedure that involves burning a small opening in the outside of your eye to allow fluid to drain out. That sounds scary, but it's actually not; only a slight stinging association is associated with the procedure, and you'll be able to get back to your normal activities the next day.  

Can it be prevented?

To lower your risk of this condition, try to keep your blood sugar levels within a normal range. If you're having trouble with this, talk to your doctor. You should also see your optometrist regularly for glaucoma screenings. These screenings can diagnose glaucoma in its early stages and before any serious damage has been done.

Open-angle glaucoma is a serious and sight-threatening condition. If you have diabetes, you have an increased risk of developing it. If you haven't seen your optometrist in a while, make an appointment right away for an eye exam and glaucoma screening.