November is Diabetes Awareness Month. At Eye Medical Clinic, we also want to highlight that it’s Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month. Diabetes is a debilitating and potentially sight-stealing disease, so this topic is important to talk about!
You might be surprised to learn that diabetes affects more than 34 million people in the United States. That’s more than one in 10 Americans living with diabetes!
Must-Knows of Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetic Eye Disease is a significant possibility for anyone who suffers from diabetes. There are several different kinds of diabetic eye disease, but all of them have the potential to result in vision loss and even blindness.
At Eye Medical Clinic, we know that preserving your vision is an important part of maintaining your health and well-being. Our own Dr. Tamer Hadi regularly sees many diabetic patients to monitor their eye health. As a Retina specialist, he knows exactly what to look for, as many diabetic eye diseases don’t have symptoms in their earliest stages. Here are his top tips to know:
- 1. If you have diabetes, you could develop diabetic eye disease at any time. Elevated blood sugar levels from diabetes can damage small blood vessels throughout the body, including those that nourish the retina. Often the earliest damage goes undetected by patients. In other words, it’s possible to develop diabetic eye disease without having ANY symptoms.
- Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of irreversible blindness in working-age Americans. As the disease progresses, blood vessels become blocked, damaged, and leak, preventing areas of the retina from receiving vital blood and nutrients. This leads to a host of problems, often starting with retinal swelling (diabetic macular edema), which blurs the fine vision needed for reading and recognizing faces, progressing to poor circulation and retinal damage (ischemia and hemorrhages) which prompts the development of growth factors that cause ABNORMAL new blood vessels (neovascularization) to grow on the retina (proliferative diabetic retinopathy). New vessels may bleed into the center of the eye, cause scarring, retinal detachment, or high pressure and pain by blocking the drainage system of the eye. All of these can be devastating for vision.
- Other vision complications from diabetes include glaucoma and cataracts. People with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts at a younger age and are twice as likely to develop glaucoma as are non-diabetics.
- Diabetic eye disease can be treated! It’s true, if you have diabetic eye disease, the reality is, you are at risk for losing vision. But great strides have been made over the years to minimize complications from diabetes. Regular eye exams, early detection, and timely disease management can help protect from and even reverse vision loss! And it all starts with knowledge and prevention. Educate yourself on the following symptoms and risk factors.
Diabetic eye disease may occur in one or both eyes and may include the following symptoms:
- Blurred or distorted vision
- Difficulty reading
- Difficulty with color perception
- The appearance of spots – often called “floaters” – in your vision
- A shadow across the field of vision
- Risk Factors
Anyone who has diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Additional factors can increase the risk, including:
- Disease duration – the longer you have diabetes, the greater the risk of developing diabetic eye disease
- Poor control of blood sugar levels
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
Treatments for Diabetic Retinopathy and Macular Edema
Each treatment plan is highly individualized and will be based on your age, medical history, lifestyle and degree of damage to your retina. In its earliest stages, diabetic retinopathy may not require treatment beyond regular monitoring by your Eye Medical Clinic doctor.
Medical management in the clinic typically includes intravitreal injections for diabetic macular edema and laser therapy to seal or shrink leaking blood vessels in a process called photocoagulation. In severe cases, the retina can become detached due to diabetic retinopathy and may require surgery.
Patients with diabetes often ask if there is anything they can do to keep from getting diabetic eye disease or to prevent vision loss once it occurs.
If you have diabetes, the National Eye Institute suggests that you keep your health on TRACK
Take your medicines as prescribed by your doctor
Reach and maintain a healthy weight
Add physical activity to your day
Control your ABCs—A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol
Kick the smoking habit
Regular dilated eye exams reduce the risk of developing more severe complications from the disease. It is extremely important for diabetic patients to maintain the eye examination schedule put in place by the retina specialist. How often an examination is needed depends on the severity of your disease. Through early detection, the retina specialist can begin a treatment regimen to preserve your vision.
Commit to an Annual Sight-Saving Exam
Researchers found that more than half of patients with diabetes skip an annual comprehensive eye exam. This should not be! Annual comprehensive eye exams are critical as they can reveal hidden signs of disease, resulting in more timely treatment. This is why the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends people with diabetes have them annually or more often, as recommended by their ophthalmologist.
“If you have diabetes, regular monitoring by a Retina specialist
is one of the best things you can do to prevent vision loss.”
Tamer Hadi, MD, board-certified ophthalmologist at Eye Medical Clinic
At Eye Medical Clinic, we want our patients to enjoy a high quality of life while also managing their diabetes. Our experienced clinical team has extensive experience in the diagnosis and management of diabetic eye disease. If you have diabetes, schedule a comprehensive eye exam at Eye Medical Clinic today, and protect yourself from preventable vision loss.