It is estimated that 420 million people have diabetes. This number has increased from 108 million since 1980. With increased prevalence, health professionals are calling it an epidemic. Although much attention is given to the disease, there is less talk about serious eye complications associated with it. This article is to provide information about the causes of diabetic eye disease as well as treatments and ways to protect vision.
Health officials estimate that by 2030, nearly 200 million people live with diabetic retinopathy. This condition is the most common type of eye disease caused by diabetes. Of these people, almost 60 million will be at risk of vision loss. Using current figures, about 1 percent of these people will lose their sight.
Diabetic retinopathy happens when the small blood vessels in the retina are damaged due to blood glucose levels. In early stages, the walls of the retina weaken which allows blood and fluids to leak. Often, this can cause blurred vision in both eyes.
In the next phase, new blood vessels grow within the retina and can rupture and bleed. Scar tissue that forms can cause retinal detachment, a severe condition that requires urgent surgery.
Diabetic retinopathy can lead to another serious condition called diabetic macular edema (DME). With this condition, fluid leaks around the macula causing swelling and vision loss.
In addition to the above, those with diabetes are more likely to develop glaucoma and cataracts.
Diabetic eye disease can have few or no symptoms in its early stages. This is why it is important to monitor one’s vision with regular comprehensive eye exams. However, when the disease progresses symptoms can include:
- Distorted or blurry vision
- Loss of sharp vision
- Sensitivity to light/glare
- Balance issues
- Seeing flashes or floaters
- Poor night vision
- Dark spots in vision
- Vision loss
- Seeing double
Early intervention can protect the eyes and potentially save one's sight. It is recommended that those with diabetes receive a comprehensive dilated eye examination at least once per year- more often if with the presence of other eye conditions. Additionally, to help prevent diabetic eye disease, it is essential to control blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. Additionally, exercise, diet and stress reduction can help maintain eye health.
Untreated diabetic eye disease can lead to permanent vision loss. Acting early is critical. Community Eye Center has ophthalmologists and optometrists who provide comprehensive diabetic eye exams as well as retina specialists.