The Damage Diabetes is Doing to Your Eyes

Everyone should be getting regular eye exams, but the visits are particularly important for those with diabetes. Diabetes can cause significant but preventable damage to the eyes in the form of a condition called diabetic retinopathy.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic Retinopathy is a condition in which too much sugar in the blood damages the blood vessels in the eye. This causes them to leak into the retina – the lining at the back of your eye that senses light. As this fluid builds up, it can result in blurry vision, vision complications, and even vision loss.

Who Gets Diabetic Retinopathy?
People with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at risk, particularly those who do not keep their blood sugar under control. By following your doctor’s directions to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level, you can decrease your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.

What Are The Symptoms?
Many diabetics have no symptoms of retinopathy until the disease has progressed to a point where the damage is irreversible. This is why it’s extremely important for all diabetics to get an eye exam with dilation once a year, whether or not you’ve noticed any changes in your vision. Common symptoms of advanced diabetic retinopathy are blurry and/or obstructed vision.

How Is Diabetic Retinopathy Diagnosed?
Your eye doctor will put some drops in your eye that will open your pupil wide enough to see the retina in the back of your eye. Normally, this direct view of the retina is enough to make a diagnosis. In some cases, your doctor will perform a test called a fluorescein angiography. This test uses dye to track circulation in your retinas and could provide a more definitive diagnosis.

How Can Diabetic Retinopathy Be Treated?
Diabetic retinopathy is easiest to treat and has fewer complications when caught early. If the blood vessels in your eye have only recently begun to leak, laser treatment has proven to be very effective at sealing those vessels. If the vessels have been leaking for a long time and there is damage to the eye, surgery may be necessary.

Can Diabetic Retinopathy Be Prevented?
The most effective way to reduce your risk of developing retinopathy is by controlling your blood sugar levels and seeing your eye doctor once a year for an eye exam. Keeping your blood pressure under control, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and not smoking will also help keep your blood sugar under control and help you avoid diabetic retinopathy.

Provided by VSP