Diabetic Eye Care
Patients with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing eye diseases that can lead to vision loss and blindness, such as diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. Diabetic eye conditions often develop without any noticeable vision loss or pain, so significant damage may already be done to the eye by the time patients notice any symptoms. For this reason, it is important for diabetic patients to have their eyes examined at least once a year. Early detection of eye disease can help prevent permanent damage. Diabetic-related eye problems develop from high blood sugar levels, which can cause damage to blood vessels in the eye. Over 40 percent of diabetic patients will develop some form of eye disease in their life. The risk of developing eye problems can be reduced through regular eye exams and by keeping blood sugar levels under control through a healthy diet and regular exercise. Macular edema can also be treated through a laser procedure, called focal laser treatment, which places hundreds of laser burns in the area of retinal leakage to reduce the amount of fluid in the retina. This treatment only requires one treatment. Diabetic Retinopathy Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a common complication of diabetes. It is the leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is characterized by progressive damage to the blood vessels of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that is necessary for good vision. DR progresses through four stages, mild nonproliferative retinopathy (microaneurysms), moderate nonproliferative retinopathy (blockage in some retinal vessels), severe nonproliferative retinopathy (more vessels are blocked leading to deprived retina from blood supply leading to growing new blood vessels), and proliferative retinopathy (most advanced stage). Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes. The risks of DR are reduced through disease management that includes good control of blood sugar, blood pressure, and lipid abnormalities. Early diagnosis of DR and timely treatment reduce the risk of vision loss; however, as many as 50% of patients are not getting their eyes examined or are diagnosed too late for treatment to be effective. It is the leading cause of blindness among U.S. working-aged adults aged 20–74 years. An estimated 4.1 million and 899,000 Americans are affected by retinopathy and vision-threatening retinopathy, respectively.