Diabetic Eye Disease and You

a photo comparing the look of a normal retina and a diabetic retina
Normal Vision

November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month.  Although it seems a bit counter-productive to talk about blood sugar levels around Thanksgiving, perhaps that is why the AAO decides to choose this month to bring diabetic complications to the forefront of conversation in and out of the doctors office.

Over 425 million people are currently living with diabetes, with almost 1 in 2 still undiagnosed, and as the 7th leading cause of death in the United States, diabetic eye disease is becoming one of the top diagnoses for optometrist and ophthalmologists throughout the world.  Although there are fewer than 200,000 new cases of Diabetic Eye Disease diagnosed each year, these chronic secondary complications due to diabetes can only be treated , not cured.

Diabetic retinopathy and Diabetic macular edema is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retinal and macular tissue at the back of the eye, including formation of new or abnormal blood vessels. Poorly controlled blood sugar levels are the primary contributor to the retinal changes that can be seen with a dilated eye examination.

Vision with Diabetic Retinopathy

Early symptoms of macular and retinal changes include floaters, intermittent blurred or distorted vision, dark areas of vision, and difficulty perceiving colors. If left undiagnosed and untreated blindness can occur. Most mild cases can be treated with careful diabetes management including diet modification, medications and insulin with overseeing by an endocrinologist and/or primary care physician, but advanced cases may require  treatment with a retinal specialist including:

  • Surgery
  • Victrectomy
  • Laser Coagulation and Laser Surgery
  • Blood Vessel Growth Inhibitors
  • Steroid Injections

Diabetes can also double the chances of developing glaucoma. People with diabetes can also develop cataracts at an earlier age than people without diabetes. Researchers think that high glucose levels cause deposits to build up in the lenses of the eyes at a more rapid rate.  Diabetic patients can reduce their risks of developing diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and early onset cataracts with self-care regimes including:

  • Blood Glucose Management
  • Diabetic Dietary Changes
  • Refrain from Smoking
  • Regular Exercise
  • Yearly Diabetic Eye Examinations

It is recommended that pre-diabetic, type 1 and type 2 diabetic patients are seen for a dilated retinal examination on a yearly basis with an optometrist or ophthalmologist.  Early detection is paramount in diagnosis, and treatment of diabetic eye disease and in preserving the vision long term in diabetic patients.

To schedule your yearly diabetic eye examination today, please contact our office at (413)584-6422.  Yearly diabetic examinations are covered by most major health insurances.  If you are unsure if your visit will be covered, please call and speak with our staff, they can confirm coverage for your dilated diabetic examination with your insurance and schedule your next visit with one of our providers at your convenience.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, American Diabetes Association, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

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