Duration of Diabetes Affects Glaucoma Risk

If you have diabetes, you may be at increased risk for glaucoma. These diseases are both a threat to the well-being of our country and the world. According to the American Diabetes Association, 9.3 percent of the American population had diabetes in 2012. Glaucoma is thesecond leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world, and over 2.2 million Americans suffer from glaucoma. As the U.S. population ages, glaucoma cases are expected to increase as well. Having diabetes just puts these individuals at higher risk for developing glaucoma.

How are diabetes and glaucoma linked?

Studies show that diabetes and hypertension increase risk for eye disease. What is the connection between diabetes and hypertension? The answer may be rooted in components of a metabolic syndrome that includes obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and high triglyceride levels. Individuals who have one component are at risk for developing other components as well. There is also a strong link between hypertension and glaucoma.

There are 47 studies that have isolated the connection between glaucoma and diabetes, and five studies examined the association between diabetes duration and glaucoma. On average, the risk for glaucoma appears to increase five percent each year after diabetes diagnosis. If an individual has suffered from diabetes for many years, he or she has a very significant risk for developing glaucoma.

According to the authors of the study, “A longer duration of diabetes could impose prolonged damage to the glial and neuronal functions, leading to higher glaucoma risk. This finding further supports the need for patients with longer duration of diabetes to adhere to optimal glaucoma screening examinations and management (Source: Healio)."

Be aware of your risk

What can diabetes sufferers do to decrease their risk of glaucoma? Understanding your individual risk for glaucoma is important. First, if you have had diabetes for many years, you need to visit your eye doctor regularly. You are at increased risk for diabetic retinopathy and cataracts, not just glaucoma.

If you have a family history of glaucoma, elevated intraocular pressure (pressure inside of the eye), increased age and non-white race, you should be especially vigilant to get comprehensive eye examinations each year. Open-angle glaucoma often has no symptoms until permanent eye damage has already occurred, so do not wait for warning signs like blurred vision or eye pain. Get checked regularly, even if you do not notice any changes in your vision. If you do notice any changes, make an appointment immediately.