If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it is crucial that you go for regular eye exams. While diabetes does significantly increase your risk of blindness, most eye problems associated with diabetes start out as minor issues and if diagnosed and treated early, they will stay minor. We recommend yearly exams for patients with diabetes.
The most common eye-conditions associated with diabetes include:
Glaucoma is the buildup of fluid and pressure inside the eye which can cause damage to the optic nerve and lead to impaired vision or even blindness. Diabetic patients have a 40% higher risk of developing glaucoma than non-diabetic patients. Glaucoma risk increases with age, and for diabetics, it increases the longer you have had diabetes.
Dr. Reiss and Dr. Patel are both Fellowship trained Glaucoma Specialists who are exceptionally qualified to help you diagnose and manage diabetes-related glaucoma. Learn more about glaucoma and available treatments.
Cataracts are the clouding of lenses in the eyes. They can cause blurred vision and impair your ability to focus properly. Diabetic patients have a 60% higher risk of developing cataracts than non-diabetic patients. Additionally, diabetic patients often develop cataracts at a younger age, and their cataracts progress faster.
If your cataracts are only mild, you may be able to offset vision impairment by wearing sunglasses regularly and using glare control lenses in your glasses. If your cataracts are interfering significantly with your vision, you may have to undergo surgery to replace the lens of your eye. Learn more about causes, symptoms, and treatment for cataracts.
While cataract surgery is generally considered to be very safe and effective, patients with diabetes do face increased risks. Lens replacement surgery can aggravate retinopathy, and it can lead to the development of glaucoma.
Diabetic retinopathy refers to all disorders of the retina caused by diabetes. The two major types of retinopathy are:
This is the most common form of retinopathy. In nonproliferative retinopathy, capillaries in the back of the eye begin to swell. The capillary walls become weakened, and lose their ability to control the substances passing between the blood and the retina. This can cause fluid to leak into the macula, which is the part of the eye where focusing occurs. The causes swelling of the macula (called macula edema) followed by blurred vision, or even loss of vision.
While nonproliferative retinopathy itself generally does not require treatment, macular edema must be treated. Fortunately, treatment is generally effective at stopping and even reversing vision loss.
Proliferative retinopathy is far less common, and it occurs when the capillaries become so damaged from nonproliferative retinopathy they close off. This causes new blood vessels to grow in the retina, which can cause two serious problems:
- If the new blood vessels are weak, they will leak blood, causing a condition called vitreous hemorrhage, which can cause loss of vision.
- The new blood vessels can cause scar tissue to grow. When the scar tissue shrinks, it can distort the retina or pull it out of place, causing a condition called retinal detachment. Your retina can be badly damaged before you notice any change in vision.
Symptoms of Retinopathy
Like many serious eye conditions, retinopathy generally does not produce noticeable symptoms until it has progressed to later stages and is more difficult to treat. However, if you schedule regular eye exams, your ophthalmologist will be able to identify early-stage symptoms.
Risk Factors for Retinopathy
Your risk of developing retinopathy increases the longer you have had diabetes, and most people with diabetes will eventually develop nonproliferative retinopathy. By keeping your blood sugar and blood pressure at healthy levels, you can delay the onset and severity of nonproliferative retinopathy, and minimize your risk of ever developing proliferative retinopathy.
If you need a diabetic eye exam, please contact us for an appointment.