Diabetic eye disease, a group of eye problems that affects those with diabetes, includes diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma.
The most common of these is diabetic retinopathy which affects 5.3 million Americans age 18 and older. Diabetes can also affect your vision by causing cataracts and glaucoma. If you have diabetes, you may get cataracts at a younger age, and the chances of developing glaucoma are almost doubled.
Early diagnosis of diabetes and, most importantly, maintaining strict control of blood sugar and hypertension through diet, exercise and medication, can help reduce your risk of developing eye disease associated with diabetes.
Once you are diagnosed with diabetes, a complete dilated eye examination should be scheduled with your eye doctor at least once a year. Make an appointment promptly if you experience blurred vision and/or floaters that: affect only one eye; last more than a few days; or are not associated with a change in blood sugar.
Diabetic retinopathy is a potentially blinding condition in which the blood vessels inside the retina become damaged from the high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes. This leads to fluids leaking into the retina and obstructing blood flow. Both may cause severe vision loss.
There are two major types of retinopathy:
• Non-Proliferative Retinopathy
The most common form of retinopathy, capillaries in the back of the eye balloon and form pouches. Non-Proliferative retinopathy can move through three stages (mild, moderate, & severe), as more and more blood vessels become blocked.
• Proliferative Retinopathy
In this form, the blood vessels are so damaged they close off and new blood vessels start growing in the retina. These new vessels are weak and can leak blood, blocking vision, which is a condition called vitreous hemorrhage. The new blood vessels can also cause scar tissue to grow. After the scar tissue shrinks, it can distort the retina or pull it out of place, a condition called retinal detachment.
Your retina can be badly damaged before you notice any change in vision - for this reason, you should have your eyes examined regularly by an eye care professional.
Huge strides have been made in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy to help in reducing the risk of vision loss through the use of laser therapy, using bright focused laser light to treat certain parts of your retina, and injections of drugs to reduce swelling of the macula.
Glaucoma occurs when pressure builds up in the eye. The pressure pinches the blood vessels that carry blood to the retina and optic nerve. Vision is gradually lost because the retina and nerve are damaged.
People with diabetes are 40% more likely to suffer from glaucoma than people without diabetes. The longer someone has had diabetes, the more common glaucoma is. Risk also increases with age.
There are several treatments for glaucoma. Some use drugs to reduce pressure in the eye, while others involve surgery.
With cataracts, the eye's clear natural lens becomes cloudy, blocking light. Many people without diabetes get cataracts, but people with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop this eye condition. People with diabetes also tend to get cataracts at a younger age and have them progress faster.
To help deal with mild cataracts, you may need to wear sunglasses more often and use glare-control lenses in your glasses.
For cataracts that interfere greatly with vision, doctors usually remove the natural lens of the eye. Sometimes the patient can opt for a new transplanted lens designed to restore vision. In people with diabetes, retinopathy can get worse after removal of the lens, and glaucoma may start to develop.
The best treatment is prevention!
• Maintain low blood sugar levels.• Keep high blood pressure under control.• Do not smoke.• Schedule an annual dilated eye exam.
Only optometrists & ophthalmologists can detect the signs of retinopathy.Only ophthalmologists can treat this disease.
For more information call or e-mail us today.
Approximately 24 million Americans age 20 or older have diabetes – but almost one-third don’t know they have the disease and are at risk for vision loss and other health problems. Early symptoms are often unnoticed, therefore vision may not be affected until the disease is severe and less easily treated.
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