Neovascular Glaucoma: A Complication of Diabetes

Eye Doctor Examines Patient for Neovascular GlaucomaNeovascular glaucoma is a rare form of glaucoma that can develop as a result of diabetes, but regular eye exams can help prevent vision damage.

How Does Diabetes Affect Vision?

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects 29 million Americans. Uncontrolled blood sugar can cause a host of complications including diabetic retinopathy, a disease characterized by leaking blood vessels and reduced blood supply in the eyes. When the retina does not receive enough oxygen, new blood vessels form on the iris, and this can interfere with normal eye drainage and lead to increased internal eye pressure.

What is Neovascular Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause dangerous spikes in eye pressure resulting in damage to the optic nerve. Neovascular glaucoma is an aggressive form of glaucoma that develops when abnormal blood vessels grow on the iris and obstruct the eye’s drainage canals. When internal eye fluid gets trapped inside the eye due to blocked drainage canals, eye pressure can increase to dangerous levels.

Neovascular glaucoma is a secondary condition that develops from other complications. The most common identifiable cause of neovascular glaucoma is unmanaged diabetes, although neovascular glaucoma can also occur from vascular disease, injury or inflammation.

Neovascular Glaucoma Treatment and Prevention

The best way to prevent neovascular glaucoma due to diabetes is to control your blood sugar. You can make some healthy lifestyle changes to keep your blood sugar within the proper range. This includes exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, maintaining your ideal blood pressure and body weight and visiting your doctor.

If you have neovascular glaucoma and treatment is necessary, your ophthalmologist will discuss your options. There are medications that can reduce the number of abnormal blood vessels. There are also surgical options including an implant that helps drain fluid out of the eye and a laser procedure that eliminates the abnormal blood vessels that obstruct the flow of fluid from the eye.

Frequent Eye Exams Preserve Healthy Vision

November is National Diabetes Month, so schedule a comprehensive eye exam with your ophthalmologist to monitor your eye health. Most eye exams include a glaucoma test called tonometry, which measures the pressure inside your eye. Your eye doctor can also dilate your pupils to look at your retina, optic nerve and retinal blood vessels.

Talk to your doctor and ophthalmologist about specific ways to effectively manage your diabetes and maintain healthy vision. You may have to visit your doctors more frequently, but this may be necessary to monitor your condition.

Click here to find a list of board-certified ophthalmologists in your area.

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