Diabetes Tips: Caring for Your Eyes
Approximately 16 million
Americans have diabetes. Diabetes can affect your eyes. Each year, 12,000 to
24,000 people lose their sight because of diabetes.
Diabetic eye disease, eye
problems that affect those with diabetes, include diabetic retinopathy,
cataracts and glaucoma. The most common of these is diabetic retinopathy, the
leading cause of new cases of blindness among working-age people in the United
States. People with diabetes are more likely to get cataracts at a younger age
and are twice as likely to develop glaucoma.
What is diabetic
Diabetic retinopathy is a
potentially vision-threatening condition in which the blood vessels inside the
retina (the area of light-sensitive cells that line the back of the eye) become
damaged. These damaged vessels can then leak, bleed or scar and cause retinal
detachment, hemorrhaging or macular edema, conditions that can damage vision.
The longer you have diabetes, the greater your chance of developing diabetic
retinopathy. More than one-third of those diagnosed with diabetes don't
get the recommended vision care. It is recommended that all diabetics should
have a dilated exam at least once a year.
If you are diagnosed with
diabetes, schedule a complete dilated eye examination with your ophthalmologist
(physician who specializes in eye diseases, M.D. or D.O.) at least once a year.
(During a "dilated" exam, your doctor uses eye drops to widen your pupil, making
it easier to exam your retina.) Your physician will recommend more frequent
examinations if problems are detected.
Women with diabetes also
should be examined if they are planning to become pregnant, are early in the
first trimester, and every one to three months during pregnancy because diabetic
retinopathy can worsen much more rapidly during pregnancy.
Recent studies show that
controlling diabetes by self-monitoring blood sugar levels and multiple daily
insulin injections or using an insulin pump can slow the development of diabetic
retinopathy and other complications of diabetes. As always, early diagnosis of
diabetes and effectively controlling blood sugar levels and high blood pressure
through diet, exercise and proper medication can help control eye diseases
associated with diabetes.
There are often no symptoms
in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy and your vision may not be affected
until the disease worsens.
You also should see your
ophthalmologist immediately if you experience:
- Blurred vision that lasts
more than a few days
- Blurred vision that is
not associated with a change in blood sugar
An effective partnership
between you, your primary care physician and your ophthalmologist. is necessary
to make sure proper eye care and treatment is provided.
The current main treatment
option for diabetic retinopathy is laser photocoagulation. In this treatment,
the "focal" laser helps to close leaking blood vessels, which lead to macular
edema. The ophthalmologist uses a special "pan retinal" laser to make tiny burns
on the retina surface, removing damaged retinal tissue. This helps to stop or
prevent growth of abnormal blood vessels that cause bleeding and retinal
detachment. When performed promptly, laser photocoagulation helps reduce the
risk of severe vision loss by up to 90 percent.
Dr. Todd M. Bescak, Ophthalmology, Bescak Eye
Center, 3600 Kolbe Road, #230, Lorain, Ohio, 44053; 440-282-6600.