This month is when we turn our attention to diabetic eye disease awareness. A chronic health condition related to the body’s ability to use insulin and glucose efficiently, diabetes affects many systems. The effects of diabetes on eye health is one of several important matters for people with this medical problem. The retinal specialists in our practice encourage all diabetic patients to obtain a thorough ophthalmic exam every year, as well as prompt care for any changes in vision.
Common Types of Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetes is an influencing factor on the development of potentially serious eye diseases including glaucoma and cataracts. Some of the common problems that we help patients address include:
- Diabetic retinopathy. Retinopathy is the term that we use to describe damage to the retina, tissue at the back of the eye. The retina has a rich blood supply from tiny blood vessels. These can be damaged over time due to the effects of diabetes, which causes them to leak blood and fluid into the retina. When fluid builds up here, the retina swells. As a result, vision can become cloudy. Diabetic retinopathy cannot be cured. It requires ongoing management to preserve vision.
- Diabetic macular edema. This condition is a complication of untreated diabetic retinopathy. The macula is at the center of the retina. Fluid accumulation on this tissue affects some of the most detailed vision abilities. Treatment is designed to stop or, optimally, reverse vision loss.
Can Diabetic Eye Disease be Avoided?
If you have diabetes, this is an important question to ask. It is questions like these that are at the heart of events like Diabetes Eye Disease Awareness Month.
Some of the tips provided by eye health experts include:
- Keep a close watch on cholesterol levels and blood pressure, as these factors also influence eye disease risk. Both can be managed with diet and exercise. If needed, a doctor may prescribe medication to keep levels under control.
- Undergo a dilated eye exam every year. Some people with diabetes may be advised to maintain more than one exam a year. Each dilated eye exam observes the retina, macula, and optic nerve for signs of damage in supporting blood vessels. The sooner that abnormalities are found, the more effective treatment will be.
- Pregnant women diagnosed with gestational diabetes are encouraged to protect eye health by following a low-sugar, high-fiber diet.