Diabetes and eye issues can sometimes go hand in hand. In fact, blurry vision can be one of the first signs of diabetes. Learn more about one important issue related to diabetes and eye health, the diabetic eye disease known as diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication related to diabetes and eye health. It occurs when there is damage to the blood vessels in the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina). Symptoms may include floaters (small spots that look like they are drifting through your field of vision), blurriness, dark areas of vision, and difficulty distinguishing colors.
As the condition progresses, blindness can occur. In fact, diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and a leading cause of blindness among working-age adults.
Some Risk Factors for Diabetes and Eye Conditions
A major risk factor for diabetic retinopathy is poorly controlled blood sugar, a risk factor that increases the longer you have diabetes. Another major risk factor is high blood pressure. To lower your risk of complications from diabetes and eye health, it is extremely important to maintain near-normal glucose levels and near-normal blood pressure levels.
Be sure to stick closely to the medication regimen your doctor has prescribed, and follow your doctor's recommendations for monitoring and managing your blood sugar and blood pressure.
Diabetic Eye Disease and Regular Eye Exams
According to the National Eye Institute, “Because diabetic retinopathy often goes unnoticed until vision loss occurs, people with diabetes should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up care of diabetic eye disease can protect against vision loss.”
The American Academy of Ophthalmology™ also offers guidelines regarding diabetes and eye conditions. They recommend individuals with Type 1 diabetes have annual screenings for diabetic retinopathy beginning 5 years after the onset of their disease and that those with Type 2 diabetes promptly get an exam at the time of diagnosis and at least yearly thereafter.
Diabetes and Eye Health: A Chronic Condition
Diabetic retinopathy is a chronic condition, which means it can last for years or be lifelong. Although it can't be cured, it can be treated. Responsibly managing diabetes and eye health can help treat mild cases. More advanced cases may require further treatment, such as laser treatment or surgery.
According to the AAO, diabetic retinopathy progresses from mild to more severe stages when appropriate intervention doesn't take place. It is critical to diagnose diabetic retinopathy in as early a stage as possible for treatment to be most effective. The good news is there are treatment strategies that are 90% effective in preventing the occurrence of severe vision loss.
Lower Your Risk for Diabetic Retinopathy and Loss of Sight
The following are some ways you can lower your risk for diabetic retinopathy and save your sight:
- Control your diabetes
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure
- Take medications as prescribed
- Stay physically active
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least annually
Care Coordination for Diabetes
Did you know your doctor’s care coordination program through CareSync includes help with diabetes management and education, understanding the screenings associated with diabetic complications like diabetic retinopathy, and the sharing of medical information among all your healthcare providers? This includes scheduling and providing reminders about getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam to check for diabetes and eye conditions, and helping to get your medical records from your ophthalmologist to your primary care physician.