Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness and vision loss in the United States. Over time, diabetes and elevated blood sugar levels can damage many organs of the body, especially the eyes. When excess sugar circulates through your bloodstream, it can have a profound effect on the structural integrity of your retinal blood vessels. This eye damage may lead to diabetic retinopathy, a complicated condition that threatens sight. In particular, people with diabetes are also at an increased risk of developing glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic macular edema.
Diabetes Eye Exams
The only dependable way to diagnose these dangerous eye diseases at an early stage is by visiting your eye doctor for regular eye exams. To perform a comprehensive evaluation of your inner eye tissues, our optometrist will dilate your eyes with topical medications to enlarge your pupil. Using high-powered magnification, we will check the back of your eye and the optic nerve for any changes or damage from diabetes.
If necessary, we may also use advanced diagnostic technologies, such as Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT scans) and Digital Fundus photography to monitor your condition more precisely. To screen for glaucoma, we will use tonometry to measure the pressure of your inner eye fluid, as well as inspect your optic nerve for any abnormalities.
According to the ADA, people with type 1 diabetes should visit their eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam within 5 years of diagnosis. Annual follow-up exams are recommended. People with type 2 diabetes should have a comprehensive eye exam immediately after diagnosis, and continue to visit yearly for diabetic eye exams. If you have diabetes, contact our eye clinic in Raleigh to book an examination with our experienced optometrist.
People with diabetes are at a higher risk of glaucoma and cataracts, but diabetic retinopathy is arguably the chief concern when it comes to eye health. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of blindness among working-age adults. Diabetic retinopathy has two types: nonproliferative and proliferative retinopathy.
Nonproliferative retinopathy is more common and describes the condition in which retinal blood vessels swell and interfere with smooth blood circulation. As a result, a leaking of fluid may occur, which leads to macular edema. Treatment involves medication or laser therapy, both of which are usually very effective at preventing vision loss.
Proliferative retinopathy is an extreme form of the disease and can totally destroy vision. This condition occurs when the eye’s blood vessels are so damaged that they seal shut. Consequently, new leaky blood vessels grow in the retina, blocking clear vision. Eventually, these unhealthy blood vessels may lead to retinal detachment. Laser surgery or a vitrectomy are possible treatments, in which the gel-like substance that supports your eyeball is replaced.
Additional Risk Factors for Diabetic Retinopathy
In addition to diabetes, some lifestyle and health factors raise your risk of developing this ocular disease.
- Poor Blood Sugar Control: Most importantly – your degree of blood glucose control makes a huge difference. Managing your blood sugars at a safe level, according to your physician’s guidelines, is the most helpful way to prevent diabetic retinopathy. The general recommendation is for people with diabetes to keep their HbA1c at 7.0 or less (the average blood sugar for a three-month span).
- Pregnancy: Being pregnant contributes to your chances of diabetic retinopathy, which is why it is essential for pregnant women with diabetes to visit an eye doctor more frequently for diabetic eye care.
- Time: The length of time that you have had diabetes plays a significant role.
- Smoking: If you have diabetes and care about the lasting health of your eyes, do not smoke.
- Hypertension and High Cholesterol: Maintaining normal blood pressure levels and keeping your blood cholesterol within a healthy range (recommended by your doctor) will also lower your risk of diabetic retinopathy.
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
During the early stages, you may not notice any signs of nonproliferative retinopathy, but blurry vision and black spots are the classic symptoms once the disease has progressed. This underscores why it is critical to visit your eye doctor for dilated eye exams! Unfortunately, when diabetic retinopathy goes undetected until vision loss is apparent, it is much more difficult to treat – and the vision loss may be irreversible.
Come Prepared to Your Diabetes Eye Exams
To maximize your diabetic eye care, our eye doctor encourages you to bring notes and questions about any visual concerns you may have. For example:
- If you have been experiencing any symptoms, provide examples.
- When do these symptoms occur? The timing may be significant.
- What is the relationship between your symptoms and blood sugar levels? Was your sugar high or low?
- Tell us about any other health issues
- Ask our optometrist about any warning signs to watch for
Call our eye clinic today to book your diabetes eye exam!