People who have diabetes are at higher risk of developing eye complications. Fortunately, you can help prevent problems:
- Take your child to the eye doctor regularly so any problems can be detected and treated early.
- Keep your child’s blood glucose levels in check.
- Take your child to regularly scheduled primary-care and diabetes-specialist appointments.
- Encourage your child to exercise regularly.
When should you call the eye doctor?
People who have diabetes should get their eyes checked regularly by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Young children may have their eyes examined by their diabetes care team. After puberty, children with diabetes typically see an ophthalmologist or optometrist for more extensive exams on an annual basis.
You should also see the eye doctor if your child notices any changes in their vision or has other visual problems.
Seek medical care immediately if your child has:
- Blurred vision
- Black spots
- Flashes of light
- Partial or complete vision loss in 1 or both eyes
What kind of eye problems can my child develop?
The chance of developing eye problems increases as people get older and have had diabetes longer. The most common complications include:
- Diabeteic retinopathy refers to changes in the retina, the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye. It is thought that high blood sugar levels lead to this problem, which is the most common and serious eye-related complication of diabetes. Usually, retinopathy doesn’t develop before a child reaches puberty and has had diabetes for several years. If discovered early, damage due to retinopathy can be slowed or sometimes even reversed by improving blood sugar control. Advanced cases may require laser treatment to help prevent vision loss.
- Cataracts. A cataract is a clouding and thickening of the eye’s lens, which is the part of the eye that enables you to focus on what you see. Cataracts can blur vision or impair night vision, and they can be surgically removed.
- Glaucoma. People with diabetes also have a greater chance of developing glaucoma as they age. Glaucoma involves a buildup of pressure in the eye that can lead to optic nerve damage. Treatment includes medications to lower the pressure inside the eye and sometimes surgery.
By carefully controlling your child’s diabetes, taking them to regular eye exams and treating problems early, you can help ensure they enjoy the gift of sight for years to come.