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Diabetic Eye Care

If you have diabetes, you already know that your body can’t use or store sugar properly. When your blood sugar is elevated, it can damage the blood vessels in your eyes. This damage may lead to a condition called diabetic retinopathy. In fact, the longer someone has diabetes, the more likely they are to have retinopathy (damage to the retina) from the disease.

Generally, diabetics don’t develop diabetic retinopathy until they have had the disease for at least 10 years. As soon as you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you need to have a dilated eye exam at least once a year.

It is important to know that you can’t diagnose diabetic retinopathy by looking in the mirror since your eye will usually look and feel normal – and vision is also often normal despite the presence of potentially blinding eye conditions. Only a complete retinal examination through a dilated pupil or through our Optos screening camera can we detect these problems. With early detection, a properly timed laser treatment can effectively stabilize vision although it is less likely to improve it. The key to maintaining good eyesight, therefore, is early diagnosis and treatment before symptoms occur.

Anyone who has diabetes is at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, but not all diabetics will be affected. In the early stages of diabetes, you may not notice any change in your vision. But by the time you notice vision changes from diabetes, your eyes may already be irreparably damaged by the disease.

That’s why routine eye exams are so important. Your eye doctor can detect signs of diabetes in your eyes even before you notice any visual symptoms, and early detection and treatment can prevent vision loss.

Our doctors recommend that diabetic patients receive dilated eye examinations at least once a year throughout their lifetime. Further testing, including photography and fluorescein angiography, may be done to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of any changes thought to cause visual loss.

If diabetic retinopathy is left untreated, this may lead to new blood vessel growth over the retina. The new blood vessels can break and cause scar tissue to develop, which can pull the retina away from the back of the eye. This is known as retinal detachment, and it can lead to blindness if untreated. In addition, abnormal blood vessels can grow on the iris, which can lead to glaucoma. People with diabetes are 25 times more likely to lose vision than those who are not diabetic.