Diabetes mellitus is a medical problem throughout the world. If you have diabetes, it is common for your primary care physician (PCP) to recommend careful management of your blood glucose. Along with that, your PCP will refer you to your ophthalmologist once a year for a routine comprehensive diabetic eye exam. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Well, I have great vision and my eyes don’t bother me. Why should I have my eyes checked?” The answer is that a dilated eye exam lets your ophthalmologist see whether or not the diabetes is causing any damage to your eyes.
Everyone with diabetes should have an annual dilated eye exam. This test can detect underlying eye problems that only your ophthalmologist can test for. Patients with diabetes can develop ophthalmic complications that can cause vision loss or blindness.
Top 3 Diabetic Eye Conditions:
1. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the back of the eye known as the retina. When these blood vessels are damaged they may leak blood and grow fragile new vessels. When the nerve tissue of the retina are damaged, vision is impaired. These damages can lead to blurring of vision, hemorrhage in the eye, or retinal detachment. Vision loss from diabetic retinopathy can be slowed or avoided through both tight diabetic blood sugar control, as well as annual comprehensive eye exams by an ophthalmologist.
2. Diabetic macular edema (DME) is a serious eye complication caused by poor diabetic control. A patient with too much blood sugar can damage the tiny blood vessels in the retina. This causes swelling of the retina due to leaking fluid from the blood vessels within the macula. The macula is the central area of the retina, where 90% of our vision is processed. Often, a patient with DME is referred to a specialist to consider treatment such as intraocular injections and/or laser treatment to seal leaking blood vessels.
3. Severe glaucoma can occur in patients with diabetes. Glaucoma is a condition characterized by elevated pressure inside the eye, and can cause blindness. The most important thing for diabetics to remember is to keep the blood sugar levels low and under control. The blood vessels in the eyes are so delicate that if diabetic patients have unpredictable blood sugar levels the eyes are one area that can be severely affected.
Dr. Garcia recommends that anyone diagnosed with diabetes or that has a family member with any of these conditions is evaluated at least once a year. Early treatment may help protect your vision.