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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Prevention is the best solution to fighting diabetic eye disease. It is always important to schedule an annual eye exam, because only optometrists and ophthalmologists can detect the signs of retinopathy.
Medically, huge strides have been made in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy to help in reducing the risk of vision loss through Laser Therapy. This treatment uses bright focused laser light to treat certain parts of your retina, and injections of drugs to reduce swelling of the macula.