Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may face as complications. All can cause severe vision loss or even blindness. Fortunately, diabetic eye disease often can be treated before vision loss occurs. All people with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam at least once a year.
Diabetic eye diseases include:
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye disease in persons with diabetes.
People with diabetes are also at risk for other diabetic eye diseases, such as:
Cataract. A clouding or opaque area develops over the lens of the eye--an area that is normally transparent. As this thickening occurs, it prevents light rays from passing through the lens and focusing on the retina-- the light sensitive tissue lining located in the back of the eye.
Persons with diabetes are twice as likely to develop a cataract.
Glaucoma. Increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that leads to optic nerve damage and loss of vision.
People with diabetes are also twice as likely as other adults to develop glaucoma.
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, retinal blood vessels may swell and leak fluid while, in others, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. These changes may result in vision loss or blindness.
Diabetic retinopathy cannot be completely avoided, but the risk can be greatly reduced. Better control of blood sugar level slows the onset and progression of retinopathy and lessens the need for laser surgery for severe retinopathy.
There may be no symptoms or pain in the early stages of the diabetic retinopathy, and vision may not change until the disease progresses.
A condition called macular edema may occur when the macula, a part of the retina, swells from the leaking fluid and causes blurred vision. When new vessels grow on the surface of the retina, they can bleed (hemorrhage) into the eye, which may decrease vision.
Anyone with diabetes is at risk for diabetic retinopathy. The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely it becomes that he or she will develop diabetic retinopathy.
Although diabetic retinopathy cannot be prevented, the risk of developing it can be reduced by:
In addition to a complete medical history and eye examination, your eye care professional may perform the following tests to diagnose diabetic retinopathy:
Specific treatment will be determined by your doctor(s) based on:
According to the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, even people with advanced retinopathy have a 95 percent chance of keeping their vision when they seek treatment before the retina becomes severely damaged. Treatment for diabetic retinopathy may include:
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