If you live with diabetes, you have additional requirements associated with staying on top of your health. Even if you have no obvious eye problems, annual eye exams should be part of your routine. Unfortunately, eyesight lost is rarely recovered. For this reason, prevention is key.
Nearly half of all people with diabetes have some form of diabetic retinopathy, though only half of those people are aware of it. The value of early detection and treatment of eye diseases is quite high: staying on top of your eye health with regular exams can reduce the risk of blindness by as much as 95%.
A diabetic eye exam is more comprehensive than a regular eye exam. Your eyes are dilated used special eye drops to enable the Optometrist to clearly see the back of your eye as well as the formation of blood vessels on the retina and macula.
Diabetic eye disease is a term that mainly refers to diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema (DME). However, cataracts and glaucoma are also included in this grouping due to the significantly increased risk of people with diabetes have for developing them.
The most well-known disease under the “diabetic eye disease” grouping, diabetic retinopathy is a serious disease that can cause significant vision impairment and blindness.
It has four stages:
High blood sugar is known to damage the retina’s blood vessels. Properly controlling your diabetes through diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors has a tangible impact on the development of diabetic retinopathy.
Diagnosing diabetic retinopathy/DME is done during a dilated eye exam. Tests include:
Treatment centers around blocking or reducing the formation of abnormal blood vessels. Anti-VEGF injection therapy is an effective first-step for both retinopathy and DME. In this therapy, anti-VEGF medication is injected into the vitreous gel to block the formation of abnormal blood vessels.
Corticosteroids are also used in treating DME. However, prolonged use can further increase the risk of glaucoma.
Laser surgery is also used to treat DME/PDR, though with less effectiveness than anti-VEGF therapy. Hundreds (or even thousands) of small laser burns are made on the retina, causing abnormal blood vessels to shrink.
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