Diabetes and Eyesight

The disease of diabetes changes the way a person’s body is able to process food for energy and growth. Every type of diabetes, has the following in common: a person’s body has difficulty converting the sugar in their blood into energy. This difficulty causes many possible health problems and related conditions.

For many people in Northern Colorado, diabetes can increase the risk for other common diabetes-related vision loss or diseases:

  1. Many diabetics are more likely to have cataracts (a clouding of the eye’s lens) sooner than those without the disease.
  2. Diabetics have about fifty percent higher risk of developing glaucoma, which is an eye condition that damages the optic nerve. It is most often identified through the increase of internal eye pressure.
  3. Macular edema (and macular degeneration) is more common in diabetics because of  malfunctioning blood vessels in the middle region of the retina responsible for central, sharp vision.
  4. Most notably, diabetes can result in diabetic retinopathy; an eye disease that affects the blood vessels in the all-important retina. Nearly 45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy.

Here in Loveland, Fort Collins and Greeley, we really can’t separate diabetes and vision issues. If you find that you have diabetes, you need to understand the vision issues, how they can affect you and the likelihood of contracting them as a result of the diabetes.

Diabetes Statistics

Over 81 million people in the USA are in some way affected by diabetes today.  There are about 21 million people who have the disease with an additional 6 million that don’t realize that they have it yet. Around 54 million people in the US have prediabetes, a condition that puts them at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. A recent American Optometric Association survey states that diabetes is now the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults ages 20 to 74.

  1. Overview of Diabetic Retinopathy
  2. The retina is the light-sensitive part of the back of the eye. It is the region that does all of the processing visual images. For this reason diabetic retinopathy may change a person’s vision in mildly, moderately or even severely.
  3. Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
  4. If you have diabetes, you most likely understand that your body isn’t able to use or store sugar correctly. When your blood sugar levels are too high, damage can occur to the blood vessels in your eyes. Diabetic retinopathy can happen because of this damage. The more time a person has diabetes, the greater the risk they have of getting retinopathy (damage to the retina) from the disease.
  5. Causes of Diabetic Retinopathy
  6. High levels of blood-sugar can increase a person’s risk of diabetic retinopathy, as  well as having diabetes for many years.
  7. Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy
  8. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, timely treatment can help 95% of  people with retinopathy avoid serious vision loss.

What is Retinopathy

As the disease progresses, diabetes might cause new blood vessel growth over the retina. These new blood vessels can sometimes rupture, causing some scar tissue to develop. This scar tissue then pulls the retina away from the back of the eye. This is known as retinal detachment, and it can lead to complete loss of vision (blindness) if left untreated. Also, abnormal blood vessels may grow on the iris, which can eventually cause glaucoma and vision loss. People with diabetes are 25 times more likely to experience some vision loss than those who do not have the disease, states the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Signs and symptoms of diabetic retinopathy

Every person who has diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, however not all diabetics will get the condition. In the early stages of diabetes, you may not notice any change in your vision although you eye doctor may be able to.  By the time you are able to notice any change in your vision from diabetes, your eyes might already have irreparable damage from the disease.

That is one reason why routine eye exams are so very important! Here in Northern Colorado, your eye doctor is able to detect signs of diabetes in your eyes even before you are able to notice any visual symptoms. Early detection and treatment of the disease can play a major role in preventing vision loss.

One of the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy are floaters. Some people in Loveland, Fort Collins and Greeley  find that they have difficulty reading or doing close work, which can indicate that fluid is collecting in the macula, (the most light-sensitive part of the retina). This buildup of fluid in the eye is called macular edema. Another symptom of diabetic retinopathy is double vision, this is when the nerves controlling the eye muscles are affected.

If you or someone you love is experiencing any of these symptoms, see be sure to see an eye doctor immediately. If you are diabetic an annual, dilated eye exam should be routine, even if you have no visual symptoms.

If your eye doctor suspects diabetic retinopathy, they will have you take a test called fluorescein angiography. For this test, dye is injected into the body and then gradually appears within the retina because of the natural blood flow process. Your eyecare practitioner will then photograph the retina as the dye passes through the blood vessels in the retina. Evaluating these pictures gives your eye doctor or a retina specialist an indication of diabetic retinopathy, and how far the disease has progressed if at all.

For additional information or to schedule an appointment, please call 970-204-4020 or click on the link on the side of the page.

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