Are You Diabetic?
All diabetics are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, which generally presents without warning signs or symptoms in its early stages. Fortunately, by having regular dilated eye exams, your eye doctor can diagnose and manage the condition to help you avoid vision loss.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy affects approximately 35% of diabetics worldwide. It occurs when the small blood vessels in the retina swell and leak as a result of high blood sugar levels. The new thin and fragile blood vessels that grow may bleed, causing scar tissue. Eventually, if left untreated, this leads to permanent vision loss, perhaps even blindness.
If you’re diabetic, controlling blood sugar levels and undergoing routine eye exams are crucial to preventing vision loss. Several risk factors associated with diabetic eye problems include:
- Poor blood sugar control
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Excess weight/obesity
Why Are Eye Exams Important?
Since diabetic retinopathy is typically painless and shows no symptoms until its advanced stages, many diabetics are unaware they have it.
It’s possible that as the condition worsens, it will cause:
- Poor night vision
- Blurred vision
- Vision loss
- An increased number of floaters
- Colors to appear washed out or faded
- Blank or dark areas in your field of vision
By getting annual eye evaluations, your eye doctor will be able to detect these signs early enough which can help lower your risk or minimize vision loss.
How Can Diabetic Retinopathy Be Treated?
The treatment options listed below may help improve your vision.
- Anti-VEGF or steroid injections
- Laser surgery
How Can Diabetic Retinopathy Be Prevented?
Below are a few ways you can preserve your vision.
- Control blood sugar levels
- Maintain healthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure
- Keep to a healthy diet and exercise regimen
- Quit smoking, if applicable
To prevent and manage diabetic retinopathy, a multi-disciplinary approach involving your eye doctor and other medical professionals is needed. Your eye doctor will conduct a comprehensive eye exam to determine whether you have diabetic retinopathy, assess its seriousness, and explore prevention and treatment options.
Contact Eye & Ear of the Palm Beaches to schedule your dilated eye exam today, and learn more about what you can do to protect your vision and general health.
Is there a cure for diabetic retinopathy?
Early treatments can slow the progression of the disease and may even restore any lost vision. The more effective long-term strategy is to control the risk factors for diabetic retinopathy. Once retinal scarring occurs, vision loss is usually permanent.
Even though my diabetes is well-controlled, could I still develop diabetic retinopathy?
Yes. Despite maintaining control over blood sugar levels, patients who’ve had type 1 diabetes for over 20 years can still develop diabetic retinopathy. Other factors, such as inflammation and direct changes to the blood vessels, are also believed to cause this eye disease.
Are there different types of diabetic retinopathy?
Yes. There are two major types:
- Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR) – the early stages
- Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR) – the advanced stages when any new fragile blood vessels appear