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Eye Diseases: Diabetic Eye Disease

Did you know that diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in people under the age of 65 in the United States? Diabetes can cause a wide range of vision problems from mildly blurred vision to irreversible vision loss. Fortunately, early detection and careful monitoring can reduce the risk of vision loss due to diabetes.

Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetic Eye Disease is not a single disease, but rather, the name for a group of eye problems that can result from having Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Anyone who has diabetes has a higher risk of vision complications than someone without diabetes. The severity of diabetic eye disease is not always linked to the control of blood sugar. However, the longer someone has been diabetic, the more likely it becomes that he or she will experience vision complications.

Possible problems include:

Diabetic Retinopathy
High blood-sugar levels from diabetes can damage the small blood vessels in the retina—nerve tissue at the back of the eye—and result in incomplete or blurry images. This damage is called diabetic retinopathy. In the early stages, there may be few or no obvious symptoms; however, your eye doctor can detect early damage during a dilated eye exam, so annual eye exams are critical for diabetic patients.

Cataracts
Cataracts—a clouding of the lens—typically develop in older adults, but people with diabetes tend to get cataracts at a younger age than the general population and have them progress faster than is typical in non-diabetic patients.

Scratch Protection
Protects the lenses from everyday wear and tear. Polycarbonate, highindex and several new plastic lens materials have scratch-resistant protection.

Glaucoma
Glaucoma occurs when pressure builds up inside the eye. People with diabetes are 40 percent more likely to suffer from glaucoma than people without diabetes. The longer someone has had diabetes, the more likely he or she will develop glaucoma.

Don’t Wait for Symptoms

Often there are no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic eye disease, so it is important that you don’t wait for symptoms to appear before having a comprehensive eye exam. However, if you suddenly see specks or spots floating in your vision, experience blurred or double vision, pain or a feeling of pressure in your eye or notice any change in your vision that lasts for more than a couple of days, you should see your eye doctor immediately.

TREATMENT

Laser surgery is the most common form of treatment for diabetic retinopathy. There are also medications that can be injected directly into the eye to shrink abnormal blood vessel growth and decrease swelling within the retina.

  • Cataracts are commonly treated by surgically removing the clouded natural lens within the eye and replacing it with a clear, artificial lens. Cataract surgery is the most common vision surgery in the United States and is typically performed on an outpatient basis.
  • Glaucoma treatment may consist of the use of medications delivered daily in eye drop form, or may be treated surgically through the use of a laser or other surgical procedure.

Have a Yearly Eye Exam

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year, and more often if you have been diagnosed with some form of diabetic eye disease. Early detection and treatment of diabetic eye disease will dramatically reduce your chances of sustaining permanent vision loss.