Diabetic Eye Disease is the leading cause of blindness among adults, and early detection is crucial to regulating the effect it may have on a person in the long-term.
Diabetes is the number one cause of new cases of blindness among adults, as the American Diabetes Association estimates those numbers to be between 12,000 and 24,000 new cases of blindness every year, according to their most recent data. For people with diabetes, it is the most common complication from the disease, and diabetic retinopathy (the medical term for blindness caused by diabetes) affects more than 4.4 million Americans age 40 and older.
So why does diabetes effect our eyes, and cause so many adults to go blind? Patients with diabetes have increased blood sugar, which can easily damage the blood vessels in the retina (the part of the eye that captures and sends images to the brain) because they are so small. When the blood vessels in the retina are damaged, blood and fluid can then leak into the retina, the blood vessels in the retina may close, or new blood vessels may form over the retina’s surface: all of these instances can inhibit or impair your vision, or cause blindness.
The beginning signs or symptoms of diabetic retinopathy are so miniscule or even nonexistent that it often goes undiagnosed until it is too late to save a person’s vision. The best and most common way to check for diabetic retinopathy is during your annual comprehensive eye exam. While your eye doctor dilates your eyes, he or she can check your blood vessels for signs of damage. Your doctor can also keep track of changes and differences between visits so that they can be alerted of any abnormalities. However, there are often no symptoms when it comes to diabetic retinopathy, which make annual eye exams so important. However, when symptoms do occur, the most common are blurred or fluxuating vision, caused by diabetic macular edema and/or refractive fluctuations resulting from sugar flux, or spots and floaters caused by retinal hemorrhage.
In addition to getting a dilated eye examination during your annual comprehensive exam, it is very important to tell your eye care provider if you notice any changes to your vision. These may include: blurry, double or cloudy vision, pain or pressure in one or both eyes, trouble with your peripheral vision, floating or flashing lights (also referred to as floaters and flashers), and dark spots. While there is no cure for either diabetes or diabetic retinopathy, both can be well managed through a healthy lifestyle paired with the right medication, and, of course, early detection.
Here at Simon Eye Associates, we recommend a comprehensive eye exam once a year, and would like to remind our patients who are diabetic to be sure to inform their doctor. You can learn more at https://www.simoneye.com or call 302.239.1933 to make an appointment today.