People who have been diagnosed with diabetes may have an increased risk of developing eye related complications. While diabetes can increase the likelihood of developing cataracts and glaucoma, the most common eye disease caused by diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. It is the leading cause of blindness in the age group 25-65. More than 5 million Americans over the age of 40 currently have diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina, the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye. There are two types of diabetic retinopathy:
Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy- This is the early form of diabetic retinopathy and is also the most common. The blood vessels of the retina leak blood and other fluid which causes the retina to swell. Often times, there are no symptoms with non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy. However, a thorough eye exam can reveal damage which is why it’s important to get eye exams each year if you have diabetes.
Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy- This is the advanced form of diabetic retinopathy. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow on the retina. These new blood vessels are weak and can break easily, causing blood to leak and clouding vision. Symptoms of proliferative diabetic retinopathy include:
- Blurry, darkened, or cloudy vision
- Seeing floaters (dark spots or lines)
Early detection of diabetic retinopathy is important to prevent permanent vision loss. If you have diabetes, you should have a dilated eye exam with one of our comprehensive ophthalmologists or retina specialists once a year. In addition, you should manage your overall health and keep your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol under control. Treatment of diabetic retinopathy will depend on the stage of the disease. The early stages generally do not require treatment but should be continually monitored. If the disease progresses to the advanced stages, medications, laser treatments, and/or surgery may be required.
To schedule your annual diabetic eye exam, call our office at (610) 696-1230.