Diabetes is a very serious disease that can lead to complications such as blindness, renal failure and amputation. By taking good care of your health through a healthy diet, regular exercises and medication, you can control your blood-sugar level. When diabetes affects your vision, it is called “diabetic retinopathy”.
All persons with diabetes should undergo an eye exam with a photodetection device or a pupillary dilation exam once a year. As soon as diabetic retinopathy is detected in the eye, a pupil-dilation exam should be performed on a regular basis for monitoring purposes.
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness to American adults under 55 years of age. It results from changes in the blood vessels in the retina. In some persons, these blood vessels become swollen and leak; in other, abnormal blood vessels are created on the surface of the retina. These changes can cause loss of vision and even blindness.
Most of the time, there are no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. Vision remains unchanged until the disease worsens. There is no pain either. Blurred vision can occur when the macula (the portion of the retina that provides central vision) becomes swollen owing to fluid leaking from the blood vessels affected by diabetes. This condition is known as “macular edema”. Sometimes, in most advanced cases, the disease can progress asymptomatically (i.e., without symptoms) for a while. This is why routine vision testing is so important for diabetic persons.
All persons with diabetes are at risk for this eye disease. The younger a person develops diabetes, the greater the risk of suffering from diabetic retinopathy.
If you suffer from diabetes, you should have your eyes examined at least once a year. Your eyes must be dilated during the exam. Photodetection is a sound option, if the retina is not yet affected by the disease. Dilating drops will afford the eye care professional a better look inside your eyes to check for signs of the disease on the retina.
Depending on the stage of progression of diabetic retinopathy, different treatment options can be considered, such as: