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Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetes is well-known for causing problems throughout the body. The eyes, kidneys, and feet are areas of particular concern. Keeping these parts healthy requires careful attention to maintaining good blood sugar levels, getting regular exercise, and being careful about which foods are eaten. Even with these precautions, it is also important to get frequent checkups so that any emerging problems can be caught and treated early.

Man with Diabetic Eye Disease reading in the library.

When you go to an optometrist in College Station, TX, you should be sure to tell him that you have diabetes. This will ensure that your eyes are checked for related conditions like:

Diabetic Retinopathy

This is what many people are talking about when they speak of "diabetic eye disease." Diabetic retinopathy refers to any of a handful of related conditions that affect the retina. These conditions involve malfunctions with the blood vessels in this part of the eye.

There are several forms of capillary problems may be spotted during an eye exam, but they boil down to two main categories: Nonproliferative retinopathy and proliferative retinopathy. In the first form, the blood vessels can bulge, distort, become blocked, or a combination of all three. As less blood is able to reach the retina, vision deteriorates. Blindness can result. There are three main stages of the disease, and all can be found during a comprehensive eye exam.

Proliferative retinopathy is actually the final stage of the nonproliferative version. Once blood flow to the retina has been severely reduced by damage to the blood vessels, biochemicals are produced that signal more capillaries to grow. Unfortunately, these new capillaries are highly prone to leaking, so blood ends up pooling in the affected areas. They can also grow into the vitreous fluid, which is not where they are supposed to be. Over time, these conditions can lead to scar tissue formation. Scar tissue naturally contracts, and this pulls the vitreous part of the eye away from the retina. The pulling can detach the retina, which has a significant risk of causing blindness.

Diabetic Macular Edema

This refers to swelling in the macula, which is the center of the retina. Alone, it causes blurry vision. However, it comes along with diabetic retinopathy. It is more likely to happen as retinopathy worsens, but it can occur at any stage of the disease. Therefore, sufferers may notice blurry vision before any symptoms are present.

Cataracts and Glaucoma

Though anyone can get cataracts, you have a higher chance of it if you have diabetes. Therefore, if you get a diabetic eye exam, doctors will be on the lookout for their development. As with cataracts, your chances of getting glaucoma are increased if you have diabetes. Tests for glaucoma are standard parts of a comprehensive eye exam.

Detection of Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetic retinopathy can go for years without causing obvious vision changes. In fact, according to the National Eye Institute, up to half of those who have it don't know it yet and between 40 and 45 percent of people with diabetes end up with some stage of this disease. It is very important for diabetics to be tested for it yearly and this requires a dilated eye exam.

At a diabetic eye exam, you'll be given standard visual acuity tests and a test of the pressure inside your eyes (to check for glaucoma), but you'll also be examined specifically for changes to your retinas. This will include the doctor looking directly into your eyes through your dilated pupils, but may also include optical coherence tomography (OCT). The tomography scan uses light waves to capture detailed images of the inside of your eye.

If you're diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, take heart: Early detection and treatment can reduce the risk of blindness by 95 percent. With yearly exams, you have a high chance of it being detected in time to attain this excellent level of benefit.

Even if your diabetic retinopathy has advanced, having exams – and getting treatment – improves your chances of avoiding blindness. Therefore, you should go to an eye doctor even if you are already experiencing symptoms.

Treatment

Several therapies exist for diabetic retinopathy, and they can be used alone or in various combinations. For DME (diabetic macular edema), these include anti-VEGF injections, which block the production of the protein that stimulates abnormal blood vessel growth; laser therapy, which seals leaky blood vessels; and corticosteroids, which suppress macular swelling.

For proliferative diabetic retinopathy, laser therapy is used to shrink the extra blood vessels in the macula. The laser is focused around, but not in, the macular area itself. This can preserve central vision but at the expense of the peripheral part of the visual field.

Contact Us Today

To learn about these and other treatments for diabetes-related eye diseases, just make an appointment with us here at Urban Optics in College Station, TX.

We'll be glad to answer your questions and set up a diabetic eye exam for you.

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