What You Need to Know About Diabetic Eye Disease

November 19th, 2019
diabetic eye disease

Without proper care, diabetes can lead to serious eye conditions like diabetic retinopathy. Here’s how you can maintain healthy vision. 

Diabetes occurs when your blood glucose is too high, and it can take a toll on your general health. Everything from your heart, kidneys, and even nervous system can be negatively affected due to complications from the disease. 

Diabetes can also have a negative effect on your vision. Those with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts at a younger age, and twice as likely to develop glaucoma. However, one of the most common and debilitating vision symptoms associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. 

In honor of Diabetes and Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, it’s important to understand the health risks associated with the condition. Here’s what you need to know about how diabetes can affect your vision, and the steps you can take to prevent those complications.  

Diabetic Retinopathy

According to a recent study, more than 8 million Americans have diabetic retinopathy, and as rates of diabetes increase, so too do instances of diabetic eye disease. In fact, it is estimated that over 13.2 million people will have a diabetic eye disease by 2050.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar damages the blood vessels in the retina, causing them to leak blood, fluid, or cholesterol into the retina. As the disease worsens and more leakage falls into the eyes, the retina struggles to absorb oxygen. When this happens, the body overcompensates by producing new blood vessels, which can potentially cause retinal detachments or scar tissue build up in the eyes. 

Along with causing discomfort and pain, diabetic retinopathy can lead to poor vision and blindness. In fact, it is the leading cause of blindness and poor vision in adults. 

Diabetic Macular Edema

Diabetic macular edema (DME) is a condition caused by diabetic retinopathy. It occurs when the macula — the part of the retina that controls our most complex vision functions — builds up with fluid due to leaking blood vessels. DME is often the primary cause of vision loss in diabetic patients.  

Common symptoms of DME may include seeing blind spots or patches, blurriness at the center of your vision, and dull and washed out colors. 

How You Can Protect Your Vision

Although those with diabetes are more likely to develop the aforementioned eye conditions, there are many things you can do to prevent diabetic eye disease from developing. Here are a few helpful steps you can take:

  • Keep careful track of your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. 
  • If you become pregnant, schedule a comprehensive dilated eye exam as soon as possible, ideally in the first three months. It’s also wise to be checked again at least one year after giving birth. 
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Exercise often, quit smoking, and eat a healthy diet. All of these habits can make a big impact. 

Additionally, you should be visiting the eye doctor at least once a year, and if you have diabetes, it’s prudent to schedule even more frequent visits. 

If you’re concerned about your eye health, schedule a comprehensive dilated eye exam with the experts at our Mesa and Chandler locations. Our eye doctors are happy to sit down with you and talk about your pre-existing medical conditions and work with you to come up with an eye care plan tailored to your needs.

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