November is the month we focus on gratitude, and good eyesight is certainly something to be grateful for. November also happens to be Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month. If you’re someone who lives with diabetes (Type 1 or Type 2), diabetic eye disease is a real threat to your vision.
There are several types of diabetic eye conditions, but all of them can result in irreversible vision loss. At Eye Medical Clinic, your trusted vision specialists for more than 75 years, we care about you, your health, your eyes and your vision – this month and every month! Diabetic eye disease is a concern but, as with many eye diseases, prevention and early detection is key!
FACTS ABOUT DIABETIC EYE DISEASE
- Diabetic eye disease is the leading cause of blindness in adults between the ages of 20 and 74
- More than 7 million Americans have diabetic eye disease
- At any given time, people with diabetes can develop diabetic eye disease
DIABETIC RETINOPATHY IS THE MOST COMMON DIABETIC EYE DISEASE
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar levels cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina. These blood vessels can swell and leak, or even close altogether, stopping blood from passing through. All of these changes can result in vision loss.
Diabetic retinopathy typically develops without any warning. Additionally, damage to the eye occurs slowly and is hard to detect without regular monitoring.
Diabetic macular edema is a complication of diabetic retinopathy. Damaged blood vessels can swell and leak fluid into the macula (the part of the eye responsible for sharp, central vision). Over time, this swelling, if untreated, will lead to vision loss.
Our Retina specialist, Dr. Tamer Hadi, works with many patients who have diabetes, helping them navigate caring for their sight and managing their diabetes. Dr. Hadi is a board-certified ophthalmologist with focused fellowship training in the diagnosis and medical and surgical treatment of complex retinal conditions.
HOW IS DIABETIC RETINOPATHY TREATED?
In its earliest stages, diabetic retinopathy may not require treatment beyond regular monitoring by Dr. Hadi with a dilated fundus exam. Treatment plans are highly individualized and will be based on your age, medical history, lifestyle and degree of retinal damage.
If you do require treatment, we will explain all options including risks, benefits and alternatives before starting the most appropriate treatment course for you.
Medical management can happen here in the clinic and most often includes intravitreal injections for diabetic macular edema and laser therapy to seal or shrink leaking blood vessels; a procedure called panretinal photocoagulation. In some severe cases of uncontrolled diabetic retinopathy, blood can fill the eye or the retina can become detached leading to blindness without urgent surgery.
Thankfully, tremendous scientific breakthroughs have been made over the past several years arming Retina specialists, such as Dr. Hadi, with a number of tools to avoid such disasters!
Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (ANTI-VEGF)
This is an injection of medication directly into the eye that can help with two issues: reducing the number of abnormal blood vessels in the retina and decreasing abnormal fluid in the macula.
This is a laser used to seal leaky blood vessels or to stimulate the cells under the retina to absorb the leaked fluid. In some cases, you may need more than one treatment.
Panretinal Photocoagulation (PRP) Laser
In certain cases, Dr. Hadi may recommend panretinal photocoagulation (PRP). By using a laser, we can reduce growth of abnormal blood vessels, causing them to shrink.
In the case of non-clearing vitreous hemorrhage (bleeding in the eye) or tractional retinal detachment, Dr. Hadi may recommend surgery. This procedure removes vitreous gel, blood and scar tissue in the back of the eye to allow the eye to heal. We also use it to repair retinal detachments.
AN ANNUAL COMPREHENSIVE EYE EXAM CAN SAVE YOUR SIGHT
If you have diabetic eye disease, the reality is that you face a very real risk of having vision issues. But, it’s not inevitable.
“You can reduce the risk of developing diabetic eye disease by having an annual dilated comprehensive eye exam.”
Dr. Tamer Hadi, Retina specialist at Eye Medical Clinic
An annual comprehensive eye exam can help detect things that a regular vision test can’t, including more serious vision problems. It can uncover hidden signs of disease, allowing for more timely treatment. This is why the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends people have them at least once a year.
SEE EVERY MOMENT
At Eye Medical Clinic, it is our goal that every patient we serve can See Every Moment with the vision they deserve. Our doctors have extensive experience in diagnosing and managing diabetic eye disease. If you have diabetes (even if you don’t have any eye symptoms), please schedule a comprehensive eye exam today to protect yourself from preventable vision loss.