Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that weakens the blood vessels that supply nourishment to the retina inside the eye. These weak vessels can leak, causing a loss of vision. Changes to your vision may not be noticeable at first. But in its advanced stages, the disease can cause significant and irreversible vision loss. Fortunately, diabetic retinopathy is preventable by controlling blood sugar. Prevention is the best medicine with this disease. Regular eye exams are very important to detect diabetic retinopathy. Although damage caused by diabetic retinopathy cannot be corrected, patients diagnosed with the condition can be treated to slow its progression and minimize further vision loss. Treatment modalities include laser and surgical procedures.

I have diabetes.  What’s that got to do with the eyes?

Diabetes can damage the retina, which is in the back of the eye.  It functions like the film in a camera and senses light.

If I have good vision, do I still need to get the eye exam every year?

Undoubtedly.  For most people, there are no symptoms in the early stage.

How do I know if my diabetes is under control?

The blood sugars give a snapshot of what the sugar level is at any given moment.  There is a lab test the doctor orders, called a Hemoglobin A1c.  This is not a kind of steak sauce.  It summarizes an average of how the sugars have been over the past 3 months.  This is a great measure to indicate whether the sugars are stable at the target levels.

Why do I need to know my hemoglobin A1c level?

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working age adults between the ages of 20-74

What does diabetes do to the eyes?

At first you may not notice a change to your vision.  Over time, blood vessels can be damaged, leading to swelling, leaking, and bleeding.

Can you send the eye exam report to my primary care doctor?

Absolutely

What’s the best way to protect my vision if I have diabetes?

Early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow up and care can reduce the risk of severe vision loss by 95%

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