Diabetic Eye Disease
Uncontrolled diabetes can cause complications in many areas of the body, including the eyes. If left undetected and untreated, complications from diabetes can lead to irreversible vision loss and even blindness. The early stages of diabetic eye disease often go unnoticed because they don’t cause substantial changes in vision.
The risk of developing diabetic eye disease increases the longer someone has diabetes and the less they have it under control. But according to the National Eye Institute, catching and treating diabetic eye disease early reduces the risk of blindness by 95 percent.
For this reason, it’s critical for people with diabetes to understand their risk and manage it as best possible with the help of a trusted ophthalmologist like Dr. Gregory Johnson.
What Is Diabetic Eye Disease?
Diabetic eye disease refers to several types of eye conditions that occur in people with diabetes. These include the following:
Diabetic retinopathy. The most common cause of vision loss in people with diabetes, diabetic retinopathy affects the tiny blood vessels in the retina. In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, referred to as nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels leak blood and other fluid into the retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye).
As the condition progresses into the later stages, the blood vessels can become swollen or blocked. In the more severe cases called proliferative diabetic retinopathy, new, abnormal blood vessels grow in the retina, leaking and bleeding. Scar tissue can develop, causing the retina to peel away from the back wall of the eye and resulting in permanent loss of vision.
Diabetic macular edema. Macular edema occurs when fluid leaks in the retina and accumulates in the macula, the part of the retina responsible for detailed central vision. Diabetic macular edema occurs in about half of all cases of diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetes also raises the risk of developing other eye diseases, including glaucoma and cataracts.
What Causes It?
Diabetic eye disease is a complication of diabetes. When the levels of sugar in the blood are too high, it can damage the body’s blood vessels, including the blood vessels that nourish the retina.
Depending on the type and severity, diabetic eye disease may be asymptomatic or cause the following symptoms:
- Blurry vision
- Double vision
- Flashing lights
- Blind spots in the visual field
Treatment for Disease
The management and treatment of diabetic eye disease depends on the nature and severity of the problem(s). First and foremost, it’s critical to control blood sugar levels and blood pressure with the help of a doctor.
A common way to treat cases of nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy is with laser treatment to seal off the leaking blood vessels. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is often treated with the use of anti-VEGF medications, as these drugs block a protein that stimulates the growth of abnormal blood vessels. For cases of diabetic macular edema, corticosteroids can be used to reduce the swelling.
People with diabetes are encouraged to have regular eye exams, which can detect problems even before they cause noticeable symptoms. Dr. Johnson recommends having at least one comprehensive eye exam annually.
Learn More about Diabetic Eye Disease
For more information about diabetic eye disease, please call or email Dr. Johnson at Intracoastal Eye today.