According to the American Diabetes Association nearly 21 million Americans are affected by diabetes and another 54 million are pre-diabetic. Diabetes is the leading cause of death, disability, and blindness in the U.S. for adults 21-74. Diabetes prevents the body from making or using insulin to break down blood sugar in the bloodstream.
Elevated blood sugar levels in diabetes can break down the blood vessels of the retina and cause bleeding and damage of the retinal tissue leading to loss of vision. We have decades of experience in managing diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is a disorder of the blood vessels in the back of the eye, the retina. Elevated blood sugar can damage the inner lining of the blood vessel leading to weaken of the vessel wall and leakage of blood and fluid into the retinal space. This leakage can damage and distort the retina leading to visual compromise. Visual loss can vary depending on the area of the retina effected. Most of the time there are no symptoms with early diabetic retinopathy. If you suffer from diabetes, scheduling regular yearly dilated exams are vitally important to catch change in the retina at an early stage to prevent vision loss at a later stage.
As primary care providers we see diabetic patients on a yearly basis, or more often, to complete dilated retinal exams to look for possible diabetic retinopathy changes. Patients with moderate or more severe diabetic retinopathy are seen much more regularly. The sooner significant retinopathy changes are caught, the sooner treatment can be initiated, this can often limit vision loss. Often early Diabetic retinopathy can have no symptoms at all and patients can maintain 20/20 vision.
Treatment of Diabetic retinopathy includes various types of laser treatment to the retina, as well as injectable medicines to help control swelling, or sometimes new blood vessel growth. Surgery is sometimes needed in advanced cases of DR. Once DR damage has been done is often permanent. This is why early detection is so important. Limiting the risk for DR, it is crucially important for the patient to maintain good blood sugar control and blood pressure control. Follow your doctors instructions carefully, and have yearly dilated retinal exam to monitor the progression of any retinal changes.
If you are living with diabetes, there are some practical ways in which you can manage eye disease: