Your Eyes and Diabetes
Blood vessels in the retina can be damaged by high blood sugar levels. This is typically referred to as diabetic retinopathy. Although nearly half of diabetics in the United States are affected by retinopathy, many can be saved from blindness through intense management of blood sugar levels and monitoring of retinal condition.
How does diabetic retinopathy damage the retina?
The tiny blood vessels in the retina are damaged when diabetes progresses, causing diabetic retinopathy. In addition, blurred vision can be created though macular edema, when fluids and lipids leak onto the macula due to damaged blood vessels.
With this progressive disease, it can advance creating fragile blood vessels along the retina and in the clear gel in the eye. Left untreated, bleeding and cloudy vision has the ability to destroy the retina.
What are the symptoms?
Often, there are no signs of diabetic retinopathy, however the blurring effects of macular edema can leave you with fluctuating vision.
How is it detected?
Dilation and an extensive eye exam including a visual acuity test, is the only way to detect diabetic retinopathy. If a macular edema is suspected, your doctor will locate the leaking blood vessels that require treatment through a fluorescein angiography.
How is it treated?
The best treatment is to prevent the development of retinopathy as much as possible. Strict control of your blood sugar will significantly reduce the long-term risk of vision loss from diabetic retinopathy.
In certain cases, your doctor may choose to treat your macular edema with injections of medicine in your eye. These special shots of medicine –called intravitreal injections- may be steroids or other medications. They are designed to shrink the swelling of the macula. Laser surgery is often recommended for people with macular edema, PDR, and neovascular glaucoma. Multiple laser treatments over time are sometimes necessary. Laser surgery does not cure diabetic retinopathy and does not always prevent further loss of vision.
People with diabetes should schedule a dilated eye examination at least once a year.