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January 10, 2003


Question from New Windsor, New York, USA:

My uncle, who has type 2 diabetes, is overweight and is a severe hard liquor alcoholic. He had cataract surgery, the eye doctor said that a blood vessel had grown around the lens which was bleeding, and now he is having trouble with his vision in that eye. Could this be due to the alcoholism? Doesn't alcohol turn to sugar in the blood or something? Could his eyesight problems be due to the alcoholism and making the diabetes worse?


From the information you provided, I can make some brief comments. The blood vessel grown around the lens of the eye is suggestive of proliferative retinopathy. This is the more advanced form of diabetic eye disease and is usually associated with vitreous hemorrhages.

If this is the case, the prognosis for good vision is guarded, and surgical intervention is usually indicated. The most likely direct cause of these eye problems is his diabetes, and the alcoholism is a secondary contributing factor making glycemic control and overall general health poor. Alcohol intake can influence episodes of hypoglycemia and also elevate triglyceride levels.