November is Diabetes and Diabetic Eye Disease Month. Diabetes can take a toll on your general health, but the disease is especially detrimental to your vision. Routine health screenings family medicine provider will help you keep your diabetes regulated and prevent any major health challenges. Visiting your eye doctor is equally as important to recognize the signs of diabetic eye disease and know how to treat it properly.
What is Diabetic Eye Disease?
Diabetic eye disease is actually a group of eye problems that include diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema (DME), cataract, and glaucoma.
- Diabetic retinopathy: The most common cause of vision loss among diabetics is diabetic retinopathy. This condition affects the blood vessels in the retina.
- Diabetic macular edema (DME): DME is a result of diabetic retinopathy and occurs when the macula – a portion of the retina – becomes swollen.
- Cataract: Diabetic adults are 2 to 5 times more likely to develop cataract compared to those without the disease. A cataract clouds the eye’s lens, causing blurred vision.
- Glaucoma: The eye’s optic nerve is damaged by a group of diseases when glaucoma is present. Some types of glaucoma can cause strong pressure inside the eye. Diabetics are at twice the risk of non-diabetics for glaucoma.
Unregulated high blood sugar levels are the cause of problems in your vision. The blood sugar affects the nerves in the retina and can cause the lens to swell. If your vision is affected by unregulated diabetes, it could take months for it to restore, if at all.
Prevent Diabetic Eye Disease
As with most health challenges, the number one way to prevent diabetic eye disease is early detection and treatment. Visiting your family doctor regularly, along with your optometrist, will help spot small changes in your vision and make any necessary treatment plans before major damage occurs. Early detection can prevent the risk of complete vision loss by nearly 95 percent.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends everyone diagnosed with diabetes have at least one eye exam each year. The first exam should occur immediately for anyone diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, within five years of being diagnosed for Type 1 Diabetes, and in the first trimester for pregnant women with diabetes.
For those with diabetes to best protect their vision, it’s important to:
- Control blood glucose level.
- Maintain treatment for diabetes set forth by primary care physician.
- Have routine health exams.
- Have annual (and more if necessary) eye exams.
- Treat any known vision issues.
It’s especially important for diabetics to be aware of any changes in their vision. If you notice even the slightest of change, schedule an eye appointment. The most common diabetic eye issues to be aware of include:
- Blurred vision.
- “Holes” in your vision.
- Flashes of light.
- Reduce peripheral vision.
- Black spots in vision.
Following the treatment plan set by your doctor and managing your diabetes will help you maintain strong vision. Eating properly, staying active and not ignoring any health changes will set you on a path of longevity and clear sight.
Lab Services & Annual Exams
If you are looking for a primary care physician to help you in the management of diabetes or just your overall health, make an appointment with one of our doctors or nurse practitioners. We offer same-day and walk-in appointments at our office in Conway near the Conway Hospital. New patient appointments are available within 24-48 hours. In addition, we offer the convenience of on-site lab services.