Diabetic Eye Disease and the Importance of Early Intervention
Diabetes is a chronic condition that can impact your health in many different ways, including your vision. Patients who have undiagnosed or poorly regulated diabetes are at an increased risk for developing a wide range of vision problems, some of which can lead to permanent blindness. Early intervention is essential for maintaining eye health and preventing permanent vision loss, so it’s crucial that patients with diabetes, as well as those who are at risk, are aware of the signs and symptoms they need to pay attention to. Since November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, it’s a perfect opportunity for patients to think about their overall health, learn more about how diabetes affects vision, and/or schedule a diabetic eye screening.
Diabetes and Vision
The most common eye disease that patients with diabetes can develop is diabetic retinopathy, a progressive condition that is characterized by damaged blood vessels in the retina due to excessive levels of sugar in the bloodstream. When the blood vessels responsible for fueling the retina with a constant supply of blood and oxygen are damaged, the eye starts to grow new blood vessels through a process known as neovascularization. Although neovascularization is a natural process that is essential for physiological development, it becomes pathological in diabetic retinopathy and triggers the growth of abnormal blood vessels that break easily, bleed, and leak into the retina.
In the earlier stages of diabetic retinopathy, also known as nonproliferative or background diabetic retinopathy, there may not be any noticeable symptoms. However, as time goes on and more fluid leaks into the retina, the more likely you are to start experiencing symptoms. The most common symptoms of advanced diabetic retinopathy include:
- Blurred vision
- Reduced central vision
- Colors appearing washed out or dull
- Visual distortions
- Eye floaters
If diabetic retinopathy progresses to the proliferative stage, it can lead to scar tissue formation on the retina, which can pull the retina out of place, leading to a tractional retinal detachment. Retinal detachments can cause permanent vision loss if not treated immediately.
Diabetes Management and Early Intervention
The good news is that, in most cases, vision loss from diabetic retinopathy can often be prevented when diagnosed early. If you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes, then you should be seeing a diabetic eye specialist at least once a year. If you haven’t been diagnosed but are at risk or have a family history of diabetes, you should consider scheduling a comprehensive eye screening.
In addition to scheduling and attending regular eye exams, patients with diabetes can also care for their vision by properly managing their blood sugar level. This is typically done through diet, exercise, medications, and at-home blood sugar monitoring. Be sure to talk to your primary care physician about your specific needs.
Schedule a Diabetic Eye Exam Today
Whether you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes or are at risk of developing it, Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month is a great time to schedule a dilated eye exam with a retina specialist. To schedule an appointment with a diabetic eye specialist on Long Island or in Queens, contact Vitreoretinal Consultants of NY today.