Diabetic Eye Exam

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of irreversible yet preventable blindness worldwide and the leading cause of vision loss of Americans under the age of 74. High blood sugar damages the blood vessel walls causing them to leak blood into the parts of the body, including the retina. The blood vessels start to balloon or aneurysm and can lead to small leakages, edema, or hemorrhages. This process is called non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy. If this process continues it can lead to the formation of new blood vessels that are fragile & continuously bleed forming proliferative diabetic retinopathy and vitreous hemorrhages. If not treated appropriately, this vision loss may be permanent due to scarring & eventual retinal detachment. The eye is the window to the body & the only place we can directly view blood vessels. The American Optometric Association recommends annual dilated eye exams for all diabetic patients. Call and schedule an appointment today.

Diabetic Retinopathy 

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that occurs in people who have diabetes. It causes progressive damage to the retina, the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye. Diabetic retinopathy is a serious sight-threatening complication of diabetes.

Diabetes interferes with the body's ability to use and store sugar (glucose). The disease is characterized by too much sugar in the blood, which can cause damage throughout the body, including the eyes. 

Over time, diabetes damages the blood vessels in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when these tiny blood vessels leak blood and other fluids. This causes the retinal tissue to swell, resulting in cloudy or blurred vision. The condition usually affects both eyes. The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely they will develop diabetic retinopathy. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness.

 

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Seeing spots or floaters

  • Blurred vision

  • Having a dark or empty spot in the center of your vision

  • Difficulty seeing well at night

 

When people with diabetes experience long periods of high blood sugar, fluid can accumulate in the lens inside the eye that controls focusing. This changes the curvature of the lens, leading to blurred vision. However, once blood sugar levels are controlled, blurred distance vision will improve. Patients with diabetes who can better control their blood sugar levels will slow the onset and progression of diabetic retinopathy.

Often the early stages of diabetic retinopathy have no visual symptoms. That is why the American Optometric Association recommends that everyone with diabetes have a comprehensive dilated eye examination once a year. Early detection and treatment can limit the potential for significant vision loss from diabetic retinopathy.

Treatment of diabetic retinopathy varies depending on the extent of the disease. People with diabetic retinopathy may need laser surgery to seal leaking blood vessels or to discourage other blood vessels from leaking. Your optometrist might need to inject medications into the eye to decrease inflammation or stop the formation of new blood vessels. People with advanced cases of diabetic retinopathy might need a surgical procedure to remove and replace the gel-like fluid in the back of the eye, called the vitreous. Surgery may also be needed to repair a retinal detachment. This is a separation of the light-receiving lining in the back of the eye.

If you are diabetic, you can help prevent or slow the development of diabetic retinopathy by:

  • Taking your prescribed medication

  • Sticking to your diet

  • Exercising regularly

  • Controlling high blood pressure

  • Avoiding alcohol and smoking

How is Diabetic Retinopathy Diagnosed

 

Diabetic retinopathy can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination. Testing, with emphasis on evaluating the retina and macula, may include:

  • Patient history to determine vision difficulties, presence of diabetes, and other general health concerns that may be affecting vision

  • Visual acuity measurements to determine how much central vision has been affected

  • Refraction to determine if a new eyeglass prescription is needed

  • Evaluation of the ocular structures, including the evaluation of the retina through a dilated pupil

  • Measurement of the pressure within the eye

Supplemental testing may include:

  • Retinal photography or tomography to document current status of the retina

  • Fluorescein angiography to evaluate abnormal blood vessel growth

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Elizabethtown Ky. 42701

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