If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, you should be concerned about diabetic eye disease. This is a group of eye problems that affects those with diabetes, including cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy (the most common.) Diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness, but there are often no symptoms in the early stages. More than one-third of those diagnosed with diabetes do not receive the recommended vision care. As soon as you are diagnosed with diabetes, you should have a complete dilated eye examination, and this should be repeated at least once a year.
What causes it?
The high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes can damage the blood vessels inside the retina, located at the back of the eye. This leads to the leakage of fluids into the retina and the obstruction of blood flow. Both may result in vision loss. If you have diabetes, you may get cataracts at a younger age and your chances of developing glaucoma are doubled.
How is it treated?
Treatment for diabetic retinopathy focuses on prevention. You can help avoid damage to the retina by keeping your blood sugar and blood pressure levels near normal. This can slow the progress of retinopathy and prevent vision loss. In advanced cases of diabetic retinopathy, laser treatment and/or surgical removal of the fluid in the eye (vitrectomy) can reduce the chance of severe vision loss and blindness. The surgery does not cure diabetic retinopathy or restore vision that has already been lost. Future vision loss can only be prevented if diabetes or blood pressure is well controlled.
Is there a cure?
No, there is no cure for diabetic retinopathy, but prevention can greatly minimize any visual effects of the disease. Be sure to visit your internist or family physician as recommended, and follow the program to control your diabetes. Come to our office for a dilated eye examination at lease once a year to monitor any possible effects on your eyes.
What can I do?
1. Effectively control diabetes through diet, exercise and medication.
2. Come in for a dilated eye exam at least once a year.
3. Make an appointment as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms:
v Blurred Vision
v Floaters that affect only one eye, last more than a few days, or are not associated with a change in blood sugar
v Partial or total loss of vision or shadow or veil across you field of vision
v Pain in the eye
For further reading, visit www.aoa.org