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Diabetic Eye Exams

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If You Have Diabetes, Annual Eye Exams Are An Important Part Of Monitoring Your Health

Diabetes places your eyes at additional risk for eye diseases unique to those living with diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema (DME) are the two most well known of the four diseases grouped under the “diabetic eye disease” label.

Diabetes influences the development of several eye diseases. In addition to retinopathy and DME, diabetes also influences glaucoma and cataract development.

These eye diseases often begin asymptomatic, meaning that they do not present obvious symptoms (such as pain) that would alert you to their development.

Glaucoma, for example, is called the “silent thief of sight” because of how it causes tunnel vision in many people before they notice it.

Annual eye exams ensure that you are well-informed of your eye health, and that you are proactive in managing any new developments.

Sight lost to diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, and glaucoma cannot be restored. Sight lost to cataracts can often be restored via cataract removal surgery.

Book Your Annual Eye Exam

If it has been more than a year since your last eye exam, schedule an appointment to have Dr. Dittman or Dr. Nock examine your eyes.

More Information About Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetic retinopathy is common among people who have lived with diabetes for 20 years or more, with nearly 80% of those people developing some form of retinopathy.

What Causes Diabetic Retinopathy?

It is important to maintain your blood sugar at ideal levels. When blood sugar levels elevate for extended periods of time, the capillaries in the retina are damaged. This causes the blood vessels to become weak and die, leaking fluids, and promoting the development of DME.

Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy has four main stages of development:

  1. Mild nonproliferative retinopathy – The capillaries in the retina are beginning to show damage. Some may already be leaking fluids and lipids into the retina.
  2. Moderate nonproliferative retinopathy – Blood vessels inside the retina are damaged, with many swollen. Their ability to transmit blood to the retina is impaired.
  3. Severe nonproliferative retinopathy – With blood flow to the retina restricted, growth hormones are released within the eye to promote the development of new blood vessels. Unfortunately, these blood vessels are weak and sure to die, exacerbating the problem.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) – New, weak blood vessels are growing in the retina and inside the vitreous. As these weak blood vessels die, they leave behind scar tissue. The scar tissue often peels from the retina, and can actually cause a retinal detachment (the result of which is total blindness).

Diabetic macular edema takes on two forms (focal DME, which occurs because of problems in the eye, and diffuse DME, which occurs when the capillaries in the retina begin to swell).
What Causes DME?
Diabetic macular edema develops in people that also have diabetic retinopathy. As blood vessels within the retina swell, this restricts blood flow to the retina. These swollen blood vessels often leak fluids, causing vision impairment (hazy, blurry vision, floaters, double vision).

We will work with you to manage your retinopathy/DME, though there is no direct cure for either disease. Controlling your blood sugar levels through lifestyle influences is an important part in preventing vision loss to retinopathy/DME.

Laser treatments and anti-VEGF therapies are effective at treating DME. Learn more about DME here.

Next Steps

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