When is a diabetic eye exam needed?
Diabetes can cause visual problems as well as blindness. It’s actually one of the leading causes of blindness in people in their 50s and younger. As we have birthdays and live with diabetes we are more likely to develop Diabetic Retinopathy to the small blood vessels and arteries in the eye. We are also more likely to develop other eye problems.
Eye diseases caused by diabetes
Conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, transient blurring and changes in blood vessels of the retina can affect the eyes of diabetic patients. Diabetic Retinopathy is a complication of diabetes when blood vessels nourishing the retina begin to deteriorate.
In the earliest stage of diabetic retinopathy, sight is not seriously affected and in 80% of diabetics the condition does not progress. If it does progress, straight lines, reading and close work may become blurred. It is important that diabetics have regular comprehensive eye exams to protect against the progression of diabetic retinopathy.
What Causes Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetes is a chronic condition of elevated blood sugar. When your blood sugar levels are not regulated and this goes on for a long time, various tissues in your body can sustain damage. This includes the blood vessels in your eyes. These blood vessels are tiny so are more fragile. When they become weak as a result of chronically elevated blood sugar, they leak fluid into the eye around the retina.
What Are Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy?
It is possible to have early diabetic retinopathy and be asymptomatic. This is why it is so important to maintain annual visits with your ophthalmologist. Signs that you may have this retinal problem include having floaters or dark spots in your vision, having blurry or double vision, seeing flashes in your vision or when you blink, experiencing pressure or pain in one or both of your eyes, or noticing blank spots (vision loss) in parts of your field of vision.
Who Is At Risk For Diabetic Retinopathy?
If you have diabetes, you are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. It is believed that the risk of this ocular condition increases the longer a person has diabetes. That said, even pregnant women with gestational diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy. There is also an increased risk of this condition if you have high blood pressure or you smoke.
What are the Different Types of Diabetic Retinopathy?
There are two types of diabetic retinopathy that may develop. These are nonproliferative and proliferative. Essentially, they are two stages of diabetic retinopathy, not two completely different types. Nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy is an early-stage disease in which fluid is leaking from swollen blood vessels in the eye. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is an advanced form of the disease in which new blood vessels grow on the retina. These blood vessels are abnormal and weak, so they may also release blood into the center of the eye.
Is There Any Way to Prevent Diabetic Retinopathy?
It is not possible to guarantee the prevention of diabetic retinopathy. That said, it’s worth a try. There are steps that you can take to reduce your risk of developing this condition. Knowing that having diabetes puts you at risk of diabetic retinopathy, steps toward prevention should be implemented as soon as possible. These include taking the necessary steps to control your blood sugar. This may involve making changes to your diet, exercising regularly, taking insulin or other medications as directed, testing your blood sugar regularly, and seeing your eye doctor at least once a year for a thorough eye exam that observes your retina, macula, and optic nerve.
Is Diabetic Retinopathy curable?
No. If you are diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, your ophthalmologist will create an ongoing treatment plan to slow or halt the progression of the disease. It is imperative that you are consistent with your diabetes management as well as your ophthalmic treatment program in order to preserve your eyesight.
How are diabetic eye diseases diagnosed?
Many diabetic patients with early diabetic retinopathy will not notice any visual problems. Diabetic retinopathy may be affecting only one eye, so a person is unaware of their condition because we function with both eyes at the same time. Other times vision may decrease slowly and again a person is unaware of this gradual change. It is important to keep blood sugar stable. Fluctuation in blood sugar can cause visual disturbances.
How to treat diabetic retinopathy
When diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed, Dr. Croley will monitor or treat the type of diabetic retinopathy you have. The treatment may vary from periodic exams to laser treatments, as well as medications that may stabilize or even improve vision. The laser treatment used to seal off the damaged blood vessels will not restore vision that is already lost due to diabetes, but will stabilize and stop the progression of the disease in the eye.
It is still strongly advised that diabetics of any age have a complete exam on a yearly basis even if they are a well controlled diabetic. Uncontrolled diabetics need to be seen more often.
For more information on diabetic eye treatment in the Ocala, Gainesville, Lady Lake, Leesburg, and Inverness, Florida area, call (352) 237-8400 or visit our Contact Us page to request a consultation today!