Patients with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing eye changes as a complication of their disease. This can lead to vision loss and blindness and include diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma. Diabetic retinopathy is actually the leading cause of blindness in the United States.
If you have diabetes mellitus, your body does not use and store sugar properly. High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels in the retina, the nerve layer at the back of the eye that senses light and helps to send images to the brain. The damage to retinal vessels is referred to as diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic eye involvement often develop without any noticeable loss of vision or pain, so significant damage may have occurred by the time patients notice any symptoms. For this reason, it is important for diabetic patients to have their eyes examined at least once a year. Early detection of eye disease can help prevent permanent damage.
Over 40 percent of patients diagnosed with diabetes develop some form of eye disease as a result of their disease. The risk of developing eye problems can be reduced with regular eye exams and by controlling blood sugar levels with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Causes Of Diabetic Eye Conditions
Diabetic eye conditions develop in the retina as a result of microvascular abnormalities. The tiny blood vessels within the retina develop microaneurysms that, over time, leak blood. As new blood vessels develop to replace the blood vessels that are no longer viable, they also leak blood causing hemorrhages and permanent damage to the retina.
While diabetics struggle with a high sugar count in the blood along with insufficient insulin production, it is actually the lack of oxygen in the blood that leads to loss of vision.
Diagnosis Of Diabetic Eye Conditions
Diabetic eye conditions can be detected through a comprehensive eye exam. A comprehensive eye exam involves a visual acuity test to measure vision at various distances, and a dilated eye exam to examine the structures of the eye for any signs of disease. During this test, your doctor can examine the retina and optic nerve with a special magnifying lens. Tonometry may also be performed during a comprehensive eye exam to measure the pressure inside the eye with a special instrument.
Eye exams should be performed at least once a year or as soon as any potential problems are detected in order to ensure early detection of any serious conditions. Early detection is the strongest protection against diabetic eye diseases.
Diagnosis Of Diabetic Retinopathy
A medical eye exam is the best way to detect changes inside your eye. An ophthalmologist can often diagnose and treat serious retinopathy before you are aware of any vision problems.
The ophthalmologist dilates your pupil and looks inside of the eye with special equipment and lenses.
Reducing The Risks Of Developing Diabetic Retinopathy
Patients with diabetes need to have an annual comprehensive dilated eye exam. The length of time a patient has diabetes will determine the likelihood of developing diabetic retinopathy. Over 40 percent of patients in the United States, diagnosed with diabetes, have a form of diabetic retinopathy.
The risks of developing diabetic eye disease can be minimized by:
- Monitoring changes in vision
- Keeping A1C levels under 7%
- Monitoring and managing blood pressure levels
- Eating a healthy diet
- Participating in a regular exercise routine
- Monitoring and managing cholesterol levels