Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetes is a serious disease that affects many parts of the body including your eyes. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to Diabetic Retinopathy, which is known to cause vision loss and blindness.
The month of November is National Diabetic Eye Disease Month, and it was only appropriate for us to educate our customers on this disease and the effects it could have on their vision.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Known as one of the leading causes of blindness, Diabetic Retinopathy is a complication associated with diabetes that causes progressive damage to the blood vessels that provide circulation to the retina, which is the light sensitive lining in the back of your eye. The retina is responsible for detecting image qualities such as color and light intensity.
Diabetic Retinopathy does not show symptoms right away, it begins to cause damage to the circulatory system of the retina.
Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic Retinopathy is mostly associated with 4 stages. The four stages of Diabetic Retinopathy are:
- Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy: This is considered the first step in the evolution of Diabetic Retinopathy. In this stage, microaneurysms begin to occur. This is when the tiny blood vessels in the retina begin to swell.
- Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy: In this second stage of Diabetic Retinopathy, some of the blood vessels that nourish the retina are blocked.
- Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy: In this third stage, more blood vessels are blocked, causing the retina to be deprived of their blood supply. This causes the retina to send out messages to the body to grow more blood vessels for nourishment.
- Proliferative Retinopathy: This is the advanced stage of Diabetic Retinopathy. In this stage the signals sent out by the retina in the previous stage are received and new blood vessels are created. The new blood vessels created tend to be fragile and abnormal. Furthermore, these blood vessels seem to grow along the retina and the clear gel that fills the inside of the eye.
The build up of these blood vessels are not the cause of the vision loss. The vision loss comes when these blood vessels leak blood. This leak causes the retina to swell causing blindness and severe vision loss.
What are Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic Retinopathy patients may experience the following symptoms:
- Seeing floaters or spots in their field of vision
- Blurred Vision
- Seeing or having a dark or empty spot in the center of your vision
- Difficulty seeing at night
In order to fight off these symptoms and prevent the disease from progressing it is important to control the blood sugar levels. If the blood sugar levels are controlled these symptoms will subside as well.
How is Diabetic Retinopathy Diagnosed?
Doctors diagnose Diabetic Retinopathy by performing a dilated eye exam. During the dilated eye exam the doctor may test for things such as:
- Patient History
- Visual Acuity
- Evaluation of Ocular structures including the retina
- Measurement of the pressure in the eye or tonometry
- Optical Coherence Tomography (OTC)
Conducting these tests will help the doctor determine the severity of the Diabetic Retinopathy and how to best treat it.
Who is at Risk of Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic Retinopathy can affect anyone who has type 1 and/or type 2 diabetes. It is recommended that everyone get a dilated eye exam every year, but it is highly recommended for people who have diabetes. It is estimated that about 40% – 45% of Americans with diabetes have some stage of Diabetic Retinopathy. Getting a yearly eye exam, can help prevent the progression of Diabetic Retinopathy.
Women who are pregnant and diabetic have a higher risk of developing Diabetic Retinopathy. In order to prevent the progression of Diabetic Retinopathy, in pregnant women with diabetes, they should have a dilated eye exam as soon as possible.
Furthermore, your race and medical history can affect your chances of developing Diabetic Retinopathy. Hispanics and African Americans are at a greater risk of developing Diabetic Retinopathy. Having a history of high blood pressure and high cholesterol can also increase your chances of developing Diabetic Retinopathy.
If you are diabetic and haven’t had your annual eye exam, stop by any Stanton Optical location near you and schedule an appointment!