Diabetic Eye Care

Diabetic man checking blood levelsEye disease is very common among people with diabetes. The effects of diabetes are presently the leading cause of blindness in adult Americans. Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema are some of the complications of diabetes that can lead to severe vision loss or blindness. People with diabetes should have their vision checked with a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year to help prevent vision loss.

What is Diabetic Eye Care?

Because eye disease and eye problems can be present among diabetics even when they have no symptoms, it is most important that you take preventative measures to care for your eyes.  This includes having a regular eye exam.  If you have diabetes, a yearly exam (or more often in some cases) can help to identify potential risk factors for eye disease development.  A comprehensive eye exam includes a visual acuity test and pupil dilation test so the eye doctor can observe the retina.  Sometimes a fluorescein angiogram is performed to take photographs of the back of the eye.

In addition, it is important that individuals manage their diabetes by keeping a close watch on their blood sugar levels and keep their blood pressure under control.

If you have a diabetic eye disease, there are treatment options depending on the disease and its stage.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that causes damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue (the retina) that lines the back of the eye. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes, often has no symptoms at the onset, but eventually can cause severe vision loss and blindness. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to potentially acquire diabetic retinopathy.

Diagram of Diabetic Retinopathy

Increased Risk of Diabetic Retinopathy

Anyone with diabetes is at risk for diabetic retinopathy.

An individual can have an increased risk if they:

  • Do not control their blood sugar levels
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have high cholesterol
  • Are pregnant
  • Are a smoker
  • Have had diabetes for a long time

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

During the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, it typically does not present any symptoms. When symptoms become noticeable, it is often at an advanced stage.

Vision of someone with dieabetic retinopathy

These symptoms can include:

  • Spots or dark strings floating in your vision (also known as floaters)
  • Blurred vision
  • Fluctuating vision
  • Difficulty seeing colors
  • Poor night vision
  • Sudden or total loss of vision

Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy

  • Focal laser treatment
  • Scatter laser treatment
  • Vitrectomy

If diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed in a timely manner, the ophthalmologist will put you on a treatment plan to help maintain your sight. If you notice vision changes, schedule an appointment with an ODM specialist immediately.

What is Diabetic Macular Edema?

It is estimated that over half a million people enduring diabetes also struggle with Diabetic Macular Edema. Diabetic macular edema is swelling in the center part of the retina (the macula) due to a buildup of fluid caused by unhealthy leaking blood vessels. DME is one of many retinal complications of diabetic retinopathy that can cause devastating loss of vision.

Increased Risk of DME

The longer one lives with Diabetes, the greater their risk of developing DME.

Some other risk factors include:

  • Hyperglycemia
  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy in women with diabetes
  • Anemia

Symptoms of DME

In its early stages, DME rarely has visual symptoms and vision loss can develop quickly. It is important to get regular diabetic eye screenings if you are diabetic as well as maintaining a healthy range of blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Treatment for DME

To treat DME, your physician may use an injectable anti-VEGF medication or laser surgery. Each patient is different and an appropriate treatment plan will be discussed.

  • Anti-VEGF Injection – After numbing drops are administered, an injection is given. Injections are typically given over a series of time.
  • Laser Technology – Laser surgery is another treatment used to seal blood vessels in the retina. Sometimes, laser surgery is combined with injections.

If you have diabetes, it is important to get your vision checked with a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year to help prevent vision loss. Request an appointment with an OSM diabetes eye specialist today.