Most of us are pretty familiar with what diabetes is, but have you heard about diabetic eye disease? This term refers to a group of different eye conditions that people with diabetes often have, including diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema (DME), cataracts and glaucoma.
This month, the spotlight is getting shone on diabetic eye disease, to raise awareness and encourage anyone suffering from diabetes to schedule an eye exam. Here’s some more information to help you understand how this disease can impact eyesight and eye health, so you can practice the best possible eye care for you.
Vision Loss & Blindness
Diabetes is a serious disease in and of itself, and diabetic eye disease can be very serious as well. In fact, it’s the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults—and all people with diabetes are at risk for vision loss and blindness from diabetic eye disease.
Here’s what to know about each of the various conditions associated with diabetic eye disease:
- The most common is diabetic retinopathy. This basically means that the blood vessels that typically nourish the tissue and nerve cells in the retina are damaged. As diabetic retinopathy progresses, it can trigger leaking and bleeding in the eye, scar tissue and sometimes even retinal detachment.
- Diabetic macular edema (DME) is often caused by diabetic retinopathy, and it means there’s a swelling of the macula.
- Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s lens, and those with diabetes are two to five times more likely to develop cataracts than those without diabetes (and to develop them earlier in life).
- Glaucoma refers to the diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve. Those with diabetes are twice as likely to develop glaucoma than those without diabetes.
What Can I Do?
The problem with diabetic eye disease is that it can be difficult for you to spot early on your own. While cataracts and glaucoma have a few more warning signs, diabetic retinopathy (which usually happens first) isn’t easily identified until vision loss occurs. So for disease prevention and to save your vision, it’s important to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. This is really the only surefire way that an eye doctor can truly diagnose this condition, and help you do something about it.
If you have diabetes, do all that you can to control it. Take your prescribed medications, stay physically active and focus on eating a healthy, nutrient-rich diet. These are the best ways to delay, if not prevent, vision loss and eye damage due to diabetes.
And of course, if you don’t have diabetes, remember that disease prevention altogether is the best way to keep your eyes healthy and seeing clearly. Incorporate healthy habits into your lifestyle today, to avoid having issues like diabetic eye disease later.
Contact us if you’d like to schedule an eye exam.