A Metabolic Illness that Causes Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetic eye disease refers to a collection of eye problems that can result from complications of diabetes. Retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma (link to glaucoma page) are eye diseases that are common to people afflicted with diabetes.
Diabetic eye disease is a leading cause of blindness among working adults in the United States, but with early detection and progressive treatment, diabetic eye disease can be controlled. If you or someone you know has diabetes, consult your primary eye care doctor who may recommend dilated eye exams at least once a year. By taking proactive measures, people with diabetes can help reduce blindness or vision loss.

Diabetic eye disease may include:

– Cataracts-occur when the lens becomes clouded, affect people at an earlier age, result in blurred vision.
– Glaucoma-an increase in fluid pressure inside the eye, leads to optic nerve damage, causes loss of vision. Learn about glaucoma.
– Diabetic retinopathy damage to the blood vessels in the retina caused by high blood pressure, high sugar levels, and high cholesterol.

The Four Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy includes disorders of the retina caused by diabetes and is a leading cause of blindness. The retina is a light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye and is necessary for proper vision. Diabetes damages the small blood vessels inside the retina and occurs in four stages:

– Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy-swelling occurs in the retina’s blood vessels
– Moderate Nonprolifertive Retinopathy-blood vessels that nourish the retina are blocked
– Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy-the blockage of the blood vessels deprives areas of the retina with blood supply, signaling the body to grow new blood vessels for nourishment
– Proliferative Retinopathy-the new blood vessels that are grown for nourishment are weak, abnormal and fragile. Grown along the retina and vitreous gel inside the eye, these vessels leak blood due to fragile walls, causing blurred vision of the macula, severe vision loss or blindness.

How is Diabetic Retinopathy Detected?

Only an experienced eye care doctor can diagnose diabetic retinopathy through:
– Visual acuity test-an eye chart test that measures your vision at various distances.
– Dilated eye exam- drops are administered in your eyes to widen the pupils and a magnifying glass is used to examine the retina and optic nerve.
– Tonometry- an instrument that measures the pressure inside the eye and detects leaking blood vessels, retinal swelling, damaged nerve tissue, changes to the blood vessels, and pale, fatty deposits on the retina.

Treating Diabetic Retinopathy

The key to treating diabetic retinopathy is to get it diagnosed as quickly as possible and to begin treatment when eyesight is still normal. Your eye care doctor will perform a dilated eye exam to detect the early signs of the disease, whose symptoms usually go undetected. Over time, however, the disease progresses and causes noticeable vision loss and usually affects both eyes.
The first three stages of diabetic retinopathy require no treatment, unless macular edema is detected. Both macular edema and proliferative retinopathy can be treated with laser surgery.

Who is At Risk for Diabetic Retinopathy?

Anyone who has been diagnosed with type 1 and type 2 diabetes is at risk for diabetic retinopathy. Statistics show that between 40-45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy, which is why your primary eye care doctor recommends regular eye exams to prevent the progression of the disease.

Pregnant women who have diabetes are at an increased risk for diabetic retinopathy and should consult their primary eye care doctor immediately for a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Very often, primary eye care doctors will want to schedule additional eye exams during the course of the pregnancy.

How Can I Protect My Vision?

People who suffer from diabetes need to be very proactive in protecting their vision.
– Have an annual comprehensive dilated eye exam
– Keep your primary eye care doctor aware of any changes in your eyesight
– Control your blood sugar levels which has been shown to slow the onset and progression of retinopathy
– Manage blood pressure and cholesterol to reduce the risk of vision loss
– Take prescribed medications
– Reach and maintain a healthy weight
– Add a daily physical activity to your regime
– Eliminate smoking

Dr. David Blair and his experienced staff at Primary Eye Care near Burlington, Kentucky are experts in treating your eye care needs. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, schedule your appointment (Here) with Dr. Blair. Taking proactive measures to safeguard your vision is an important part of your eye care needs. Dr. Blair and his staff will walk you through the process of examining your eyes and answer your questions about how diabetes can affect your vision.