Diabetic Retinopathy

How can diabetes affect the eyes?

Diabetes and its complications can greatly affect many parts of the eye. A common complication of diabetes is diabetic retinopathy in which elevated blood sugar damages the delicate blood vessels inside the eye, causing them to leak, bleed, and become blocked. If untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to permanent vision loss and blindness. It is the leading cause of blindness in adults from 20 to 70 years.

Often there are no visual symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. That is why the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that everyone with diabetes have a comprehensive dilated eye examination once a year. Early detection and treatment can limit the potential for significant vision loss from diabetic retinopathy. How Are Diabetes-Related Issues Detected?

Because this disease can cause blindness, early diagnosis and timely treatment are essential. That is one reason why it is important to have your eyes examined regularly by a doctor of optometry, especially if you have diabetes or are at risk for development of diabetes. Besides retinopathy, other eye conditions associated with diabetes include fluctuations in vision, double vision, cataracts, and a certain type of glaucoma.

During a comprehensive eye examination, Drs. John and Katie Mason will look inside your eyes with lights and lenses that magnify the view of the retina. The interior of your eyes also will be photographed to provide documentation of the retinal appearance.

How can it be treated?

Treatment of diabetic retinopathy varies depending on the extent of the disease. It may require laser surgery to seal leaking blood vessels or to discourage new leaky blood vessels from forming. Injections of medications into the eye may be needed to decrease inflammation or to stop the formation of new blood vessels. In more advanced cases, a surgical procedure to remove and replace the gel-like fluid in the back of the eye, called the vitreous, may be needed. A retinal detachment, defined as a separation of the light-receiving lining in the back of the eye, resulting from diabetic retinopathy, may also require surgical repair.


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