Diabetic Retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina.
There are approximately 29 million Americans age 20 and older that have diabetes and almost one third of those are at risk for vision loss because they do not know they have the disease.
This is a tragedy waiting to happen because people with diabetes --both type 1 and type 2--are at risk to develop diabetic retinopathy, a degenerative disease of the retina (the sensitive area at the back of the eye), which affects 5.3 million Americans age 18 and older.
More than one third of those diagnosed with diabetes do not adhere to vision care guidelines by forgoing a dilated eye exam every year. It is extremely important that anyone with diabetes get a dilated eye exam every year! Pregnant women with diabetes should have an eye exam in the first trimester, since diabetic eye disease can progress rapidly during pregnancy.
The longer a person has diabetes, the greater the risk for developing diabetic retinopathy. However, diabetic retinopathy does not only affect people who have had diabetes for many years, it can also appear within the first year or two after the onset of the disease. For some people, diabetic retinopathy is one of the first signs of the disease.
High blood sugar levels can weaken blood vessels in the eye's retina causing them to leak blood or fluid. This causes the retina to swell and can lead to vision loss. Blood sugar fluctuations can also promote growth of new, fragile blood vessels on the retina, which can break easily and leak blood into the vitreous (the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the center of the eye.) This can blur vision and lead to permanent vision impairment. High blood pressure and smoking can further damage blood vessels as well.
What are the signs to look for? Fluctuations in blood sugar levels can temporarily affect vision, so it's sometimes difficult to know if a serious eye problem is developing. That's one of the reasons strict control of your blood sugar is so important. If you notice a vision change in one eye, a change that lasts more than a day or two or changes not associated with fluctuations in blood sugar, call an ophthalmologist promptly.
If you're diagnosed with diabetes, be sure to schedule a complete dilated eye exam once a year or as often as your ophthalmologist suggests. Don't smoke and keep your blood sugar under control through diet and exercise.
Please call our office for further questions.
Diabetic retinopathy, is damage to the retina caused by complications of diabetes and is the leading cause of blindness in American adults.
It is an ocular manifestation of diabetes, a systemic disease, which affects up to 80 percent of all patients who have had diabetes for 10 years or more. The longer a person has diabetes, the higher his or her chances of developing diabetic retinopathy.
Despite these intimidating statistics, research indicates that at least 90% of new cases could be reduced by preventative monitoring during regular eye examinations and proper treatment.
There are multiple forms of diabetic retinopathy, and only your doctor can determine your particular form. With one form, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In another, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina.
In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, many do not notice a change to their vision because there are little to no symptoms. If an eye doctor does not catch diabetic retinopathy early, one could sustain mild blurriness at near or in the distance, as well as floaters. In severe cases a sudden loss of vision may occur.
Unfortunately, Diabetic Retinopathy can result in permanent damage that cannot be reversed. However, if caught in time, prescribed treatments may slow development and prevent vision loss.
Concerned about the onset of diabetic retinopathy? Call and schedule a preventative eye examination today.