Most of the nearly 35 million Americans living with diabetes know that this disease can be managed with a healthy diet, active lifestyle, and medication, including insulin. However, though manageable, diabetes poses a serious health risk and can lead to eye diseases that threaten vision. In honor of Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, discover more about the most common diabetic eye disease, its causes, and what can be done to treat it.
Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is the most common diabetic complication that affects the eyes. Even those with very well-controlled diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy, so everyone with diabetes should have a yearly dilated eye exam.
The retina is the layer of tissue in the back of the eye that detects light and allows for a clear vision of fine details. Diabetes can cause blood vessels in the retina to become weakened or damaged. As a result, fluid may leak from blood vessels, including the central retina (also known as the macula), and cause swelling. The swelling of the macula is called Diabetic Macular Edema, and it can lead to blurred vision and eventual vision loss. When the body detects poor oxygen delivery to the retina from vessels that are leaking, it may attempt to restore that oxygen supply by growing new blood vessels. These vessels are delicate and continue to leak blood, worsening the condition.
There are many symptoms of diabetic eye diseases. If you experience any of the following, call our experts at Better Vision New Jersey immediately:
Even if someone does not have DR, these symptoms could indicate another eye disease. For long-term healthy vision and the most effective treatments, early detection of any eye condition is key.
Controlling diabetes is a preventative and active treatment for DR since it can help reverse the condition. Outside of diabetes management, intraocular anti-VEGF injections can help for severe DR, as can laser surgery or vitrectomy.
Most people who have DR do not experience symptoms until it has progressed to stages too severe to fully correct. This is why detecting the condition early with an annual dilated eye exam is so valuable. Yearly dilated eye exams for people with diabetes can monitor if blood vessels have become damaged or—for those with DR—if damage has progressed and new treatment is necessary.
It is important to remember that the eyes are connected to the rest of the body. The eyes do not develop retinopathy without other parts of the body developing diabetic complications at the same time, e.g., the kidneys, feet, and other parts of the body. The eyes are typically the first place that diabetic complications can be seen. As such, diabetic changes in the eyes indicate that the rest of the body is in danger of diabetic complications also.
Staying on top of blood sugar and A1C levels decreases the risk of diabetic complications, including those impacting vision. Since diabetes also puts people at a higher risk of other conditions, like glaucoma and premature cataracts, it is important to schedule regular exams to watch for these developments.
For diabetics and nondiabetics alike, regular exams are crucial for healthy vision and eyes. Call our Better Vision New Jersey today to book your next appointment!