November is Diabetes Awareness Month. The Berkeley Eye Center wants to take a few moments to spotlight the effects diabetes can have on vision and the steps that patients with this condition can take to prevent the onset of any diabetes-related vision problems.
What Is Diabetic Eye Disease?
Diabetic eye disease is comprised of a group of eye conditions including diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema (DME), cataracts, and glaucoma, that affect people with diabetes. These conditions all have the potential to cause significant vision loss and even blindness. Unfortunately, most types of diabetic eye disease have little or no warning signs or symptoms, which is why early detection is so important.
The key to preventing or delaying the effects of diabetic eye disease vision loss is through regular eye examinations. Regularly scheduled eye exams will enable your optometrist or ophthalmologist to detect any problems in their early stages, and provide effective treatment in a timely manner. Follow up exams are important to ensure any problems don’t reoccur.
Other ways to prevent or limit diabetic related vision problems include taking your medications as prescribed, controlling your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol, maintaining a healthy diet, not smoking, and staying physically active.
Types of Diabetic Eye Disease
Some of the eye problems that afflict people with diabetes include:
Diabetic Retinopathy: The most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes, diabetic retinopathy affects blood vessels in the light-sensitive tissue called the retina that lines the back of the eye. The condition can cause blood vessels in the retina to leak fluid or hemorrhage, resulting in distorted vision. In its most advanced stage, the disease causes new abnormal blood vessels to proliferate on the surface of the retina, which can result in scarring and cell loss in the retina.
Diabetic macular edema (DME): Caused by diabetic retinopathy, DME is a swelling in the area of the retina called the macula. (The macula is the part of the retina that is important for the sharp, straight-ahead vision necessary for reading, recognizing faces, and driving.) Almost half of all people with diabetic retinopathy will develop DME.
Glaucoma: Damage to the optic nerve caused by a fluid build-up in the front part of the eye.
Cataract: Clouding of the lens of the eye
Regular Eye Exams Are The Best Way To Catch Diabetic Eye Diseases In Early Stages
The longer you have had diabetes the higher your risk for getting diabetic eye disease. People with diabetes should get their eyes examined at least once a year. Vision loss caused by diabetic retinopathy and other diabetic eye diseases is sometimes irreversible. However, early detection and treatment by an eye doctor can greatly reduce the risk of blindness.
A comprehensive dilated eye exam allows a doctor to check the retina for early signs of diabetic eye disease damage such as:
- Changes to blood vessels
- Changes in the lens
- Leaking blood vessels
- Warning signs of leaky blood vessels, such as fatty deposits
- Swelling of the macula (DME)
- Damage to nerve tissue
For more information visit the National Eye Institute’s diabetic eye disease page.
Schedule An Eye Exam During Diabetic Eye Disease Month
For a person with diabetes, regular eye exams play an important role in their efforts to control and monitor their disease. The Berkeley Eye Center is recognized as one of Texas’ most established comprehensive eye care facilities, caring for more than 100,000 patients each year. Our Houston optometrists and ophthalmologists specialize in diagnosing and treating diabetic retinopathy and other serious eye conditions. Don’t put off getting your eyes examined – early detection by a trained eye specialist is the best way to avoid serious vision loss problems.