Is Macular Degeneration Related to My Diabetes?

I have diabetes. Is macular degeneration related to my diabetes? Will it affect my diabetes?

Age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy are two distinct entities.They are not related, nor are they believed to impact one another. Diabetic retinopathy is secondary to diabetes mellitus, a vascular disease characterized by abnormal blood sugar metabolism, with subsequent negative effects on several body systems.

The most common side effects of diabetes mellitus include kidney problems, neurologic problems, and, unfortunately, eye problems. Early eye problems manifest as small hemorrhages in the retina, mini-infarcts in the retina called cotton-wool spots, and transient visual blurring due to shrinking and swelling of one’s lens. More advanced retinopathy leads to vision loss from swelling in the retina, bleeding in the eye, and/or retinal detachment.

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common vascular dis-ease to affect the eye. While age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of visual loss in patients 60 years of age or older in the United States, diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of visual loss in working-age patients in the United States. Diabetic retinopathy is strongly related to blood sugar control.

The better the blood sugar control, the less likely patients are to develop significant retinopathy or to experience progression of current retinopathy. While age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy do not directly affect disease progress of one another, visual loss from one can certainly have a dramatic impact on patients who have already experienced visual loss from the other.

Therefore, patients with diabetic retinopathy should do every-thing possible to maximize their blood sugar control, blood pressure control, and any other factors that could lead to worsening of their retinopathy.