As we progress through American Diabetes Awareness month, I wanted to touch on how diabetes can commonly affect the outside or front surface of the eye. In fact, one study suggests that nearly half of all people with diabetes suffer from Dry Eye Disease. This is very significant because Dry Eye Disease can often cause reduced vision and noticeable symptoms of ocular discomfort.
The mechanism by which Diabetes causes Dry Eye Disease may be dual action. The diabetic eye may secrete less volume of natural tears. But, the quality of these tears may be sub par as well. The result is the cornea, or front surface, loses its coating of moisture. The cornea is packed with sensory nerves, and when they lose their protective moisture layer, they shoot back signals of burning, sandy, and dryness to the brain. Also, when the cornea becomes dry it can lose it's clarity and reduced or fluctuating vision can result. Even worse, Dry Eye Disease may leave the eye more susceptible to infections.
How do we fix this? A comprehensive eye exam is the best first step. During the exam, the level of dryness can be fully evaluated. Then, a treatment plan can be developed to reduce symptoms, stabilize vision, and reduce the long term effects of Dry Eye Disease. These treatments may range from specific recommendations of a particular tear drop. Or, the prescribing of eye drop medications may be necessary. Also, tear-savers can be inserted in the tear ducts to prevent excess loss of tears.
All in all, there is a definite association between Diabetes and Dry Eye Disease. Yet, the good news is that we do have ways to greatly reduce the symptoms and visual effects of the condition.