Diabetes is a disease that affects approximately 29 million or 9 % of the American population and is the 7th leading cause of death in this country. Of those affected Americans 15% to 20% will suffer some visual impairment due to the disease. Diabetic patients are 60% more likely to develop cataracts at an younger age and 40% more likely to be diagnosed with glaucoma - both of which can cause severe vision loss if left untreated. Because diabetes is largely treatable with diet and medication, we can reduce the likelihood of these side effects from occurring or at least delay their severity.
Diabetes interferes with the body's ability to use and store sugar. Over time, too much sugar in the body causes damage to the tiny blood vessels in the back of the eye (the retina) . The vessel walls become porous and start to leak blood and other fluids causing swelling of the retina tissue. This leads to diabetic retinopathy and can be a major contributor to macular degeneration. Symptoms of diabetic eye disease include spots in your vision, blurred or cloudy vision, a dark spot in the center of your sight. These occurrences however do not necessarily manifest themselves in the early years of a diabetic's life. So an annual dilated eye examination is recommended for every diabetic patient.
Treatment options for diabetic retinopathy are varied depending on the extent of fluid leakage in the retina. Laser surgery, injections in the eye of certain medications and/or surgery are all used in the prevention of vision loss. A number of devices are now steeping into the forefront of imaging the health of retinal tissue. Many of our patients appreciate the technology available in our office to view the retinal blood vessel and pigmentation. The Opto Map and Visucam are available able to provide our doctors with detailed scans of potential areas of damage.
If you or a family member suffers from diabetes please make sure that medication is taken regularly. A healthy lifestyle with proper diet and exercise can help to maintain low blood sugar levels. Avoidance of alcohol and smoking also helps to promote good control of blood sugar levels. Good communication among all the patients' healthcare providers is essential for managing the care and treatment of diabetes.
Lastly, a yearly comprehensive dilated eye examination by your eye doctor is an important part in maintaining a lifetime of healthy vision.