Diabetes can affect the eyes in a variety of ways. The most common and the most serious is a condition known as diabetic retinopathy, in which changes to retinal blood vessels cause them to bleed or leak fluid, distorting vision. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and a leading cause of blindness among adults.
Early disease can be detected and treated before any significant visual changes occur, so people with diabetes should get a comprehensive eye exam every year. As with many medical conditions, it is most beneficial to prevent disease, and easier and more effective to treat when detected early.
The important risk factors in developing diabetic retinopathy include the length of time with diabetes and family history of diabetic retinopathy. Daily monitoring of glucose levels, taking medications as prescribed, staying physically active, and maintaining a healthy diet can all help prevent or delay vision loss.
Diabetic retinopathy, as well as a less common diabetic eye condition known as macular edema, are most commonly treated with a laser procedure done in our office during single or multiple sessions. This treatment has been available for the past 15-20 years and is extremely effective in reducing the visual loss from diabetes.
Good diabetic control and regular eye examinations are the two most important measures to preserve the health of your eye and vision. Regular medical exams, good diet, appropriate medications and routine monitoring of glucose levels are the tools to monitor the status of your diabetes. Control of blood pressure, weight reduction when appropriate, avoiding smoking and regular exercise can also be of significant benefit to your health and vision. Your primary care physician will decide which methods to monitor your glucose levels. A relatively new blood test, called HgA1c, reflects the cumulative control of glucose levels for the past three months. HgA1c levels below 7% have been correlated with lower risks in developing diabetic eye disease.
Eye examinations are generally recommended every year once a diagnosis of diabetes has been established. In this way, early disease can be detected and treated before any significant visual changes occur. As with many medical conditions, it is most beneficial to prevent disease, and easier and more effective to treat when detected early should it occur.