Diabetes affects more than 29 million Americans today. The most common type of diabetes is type II diabetes, or adult-onset diabetes, which typically affects adults who are over 40, overweight and have an inactive lifestyle. These three precursors can increase the risk of developing other diseases such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and heart disease. A significant percentage of diabetics also develop glaucoma, a seemingly unrelated disease. There is no doubt that a connection exists between diabetes and glaucoma, but does diabetes cause glaucoma?
This is a difficult question to which doctors and researchers are still seeking answers. While we may not be able to prove that diabetes causes glaucoma, there are some interesting statistics that link these diseases:
- Diabetics are twice as likely to develop glaucoma as non-diabetics
- Someone with open-angle glaucoma (the most common type of glaucoma) is more likely to develop diabetes than someone who does not have open-angle glaucoma
- In some diabetics, new blood vessels grow on the iris and block the flow of eye fluid which raises inner eye pressure. This is known as neovascular glaucoma.
These statistics certainly support the assertion that diabetes and glaucoma are strongly connected. Other eye diseases have a similar link to diabetes, such as cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. These conditions, along with glaucoma, are collectively referred to as diabetic eye disease. This is a general term for a group of vision problems that diabetics may develop (Source: Glaucoma Research Foundation).
It may be too early to conclude that diabetes causes glaucoma, but it is clear that these diseases are not independent of one another. Therefore, preventing one of these diseases may be a key factor in preventing the development of several diseases. Take control of your health and commit to making wise lifestyle choices. Eat a high-fiber, low-fat diet that centers on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Make regular physical exercise a priority in your day, and say no to smoking and alcohol. Finally, establish a good relationship with your primary care physician and schedule yearly physicals and check-ups, as well as comprehensive eye exams. These choices will preserve your vision and enhance your overall health and wellness.