Regular eye exams are important for those with diabetes.
Diabetes affects many parts of the body, including the eyes. Since November is diabetic eye disease awareness month, it’s beneficial to learn more about how vision can be affected. Diabetes results in too much sugar in the blood and can itself be diagnosed with a thorough eye exam. Blood vessels are affected by diabetes and when the eyes are dilated in an annual exam, an eye doctor can view the blood vessels at the back of the eye to see if they are healthy.
“Diabetic retinopathy” is a condition that impacts those with diabetes and can lead to eye damage, vision loss, or even blindness. Those with all types of diabetes—type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes in pregnancy—are susceptible to developing diabetic retinopathy.
“With diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels in the retina—light-sensitive tissues in the back of the eye—are affected,” said Dr. Joe Schneiderhan, optometrist at Glenwood Family Eye Center. “Symptoms that may indicate that vision is being affected include blurry vision, spots or floaters in the eye, or difficulties seeing well at night.”
Such changes may be sporadic, but as diabetic retinopathy progresses, blood vessels bleed into the center of the eye, appearing as dark floating spots or streaks. Treatment for diabetic retinopathy is needed right away or symptoms can reoccur or ultimately lead to scarring on the eye. To monitor the progression of the disease, eye exams may be needed every two to four months. Treatments for diabetic retinopathy depend on the severity of the condition, but include medicine, laser treatment, or even surgery.
Those with diabetes are also two to five times more prone to developing cataracts—a cloudy area in the lens of the eye—and early onset of cataracts at a young age is also a concern.
“Cataract symptoms appear as blurred vision, fading colors, light sensitivity, poor night vision, or even double vision,” said Dr. John Dvorak, ophthalmologist at Glenwood Family Eye Center. “As one of the most common surgeries in the United States, cataract surgery is safe and can correct vision issues due to cataracts.”
Diabetes also doubles the risk of “open-angle glaucoma,” which is the most common type in the United States. Glaucoma begins with a slow loss of vision, mainly from the sides, and because it is gradual, it is difficult to immediately realize that it is happening. Some people with glaucoma, but not all, have higher eye pressure and need to be treated to reduce the eye pressure. However, eye pressure varies from person to person, so a thorough, dilated eye exam is important to determine your individual eye health. Prescription eye drops are commonly used to lower pressure in the eye; laser treatment or surgery are additional options if recommended by your eye doctor.
Maintaining preventive eye health for those with diabetes includes having a dilated eye exam annually or more frequently to diagnose the onset of diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, or other eye concerns. Managing your diabetes also helps to prevent/delay vision loss—it’s important to stay physically active, eat healthy, and continue with the prescription regimen prescribed by your physician.
Contact our team for more information about your diabetic eye care concerns.