What is Diabetes?
Diabetes, simply stated, is a disease that prevents your body from making or using insulin which in turn leads to increased sugar levels in your bloodstream.
How does Diabetes Affect the Eye?
Diabetes can affect many parts of the eye. Diabetes can cause changes in your glasses prescription, result in cataracts, glaucoma, paralysis of the eye muscles or pupil, and in decreased corneal sensitivity. Visual symptoms of diabetes include fluctuating or blurry vision, double vision, and loss of visual field. The most serious eye problem associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy.
What is Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the blood vessels in the retina become weak, which can lead to the blood vessels leaking blood and fluid, to the growth of new blood vessels and other changes. If diabetic retinopathy is left untreated, it can lead to blindness.
During a routine eye examination, your optometrist can diagnose potential vision threatening changes in your eye that may be treated early to prevent blindness. Once damage has occurred, the effects can be permanent. It is important to control your blood sugar as much as possible to reduce your risk of developing retinopathy.
How is Diabetic Retinopathy Treated?
In the early stages, diabetic retinopathy is monitored through routine eye health examinations. If necessary, it may be treated with laser or injection therapy to seal off leaking blood vessels. In other cases, surgery inside the eye may be necessary. Early detection of diabetic retinopathy is important, as treatment is much more likely to be successful.
Are there Risk Factors for Developing Retinopathy?
Several factors that increase the risk of developing retinopathy include smoking, high blood pressure, and drinking alcohol.
How can Diabetes-Related Eye Problems be Prevented?
Monitor and maintain control of your diabetes. See your doctor regularly and follow instructions about diet, exercise and medication. It's also recommended to see your optometrist for a thorough eye examination when you are first diagnosed as a diabetic, at least annually thereafter.