The Importance of Diabetic Eye Care
Unfortunately, people living with diabetes are at a higher risk for vision complications. According to THE AMERICAN DIABETES ASSOCIATION:
- Approximately 30% of people with diabetes worldwide have signs of retinopathy, and 1/3 of them have vision-threatening retinopathy
- The CDC estimates that 8.6% of people with diabetes in the US have retinopathy—and half of those have experienced vision loss as a result
- People with diabetes are 2 times more likely to develop cataracts—and at a younger age
- Between 4.3 and 7% of people with diabetes may have macular edema
- It is estimated that 20% of reported dry eyes are from people with type 2 diabetes between the ages of 43 and 83 years
But there is good news: an annual ROUTINE EYE EXAM could prevent 95% of vision loss caused by diabetes! Be sure to SCHEDULE AN ANNUAL COMPREHENSIVE EYE EXAM with your optometrist at least once a year so they can detect any problems early and treat them accordingly.
At Clarus, our optometrists work closely with our team of FELLOWSHIP TRAINED RETINA SPECIALISTS to help manage diabetic retinopathy in patients who require additional care. A retina specialist is a physician who specializes in ophthalmology and sub-specializes in diseases and surgery of the vitreous body of the eye and the retina, including diabetic retinopathy.
Types of Diabetic Retinopathy
A diabetic eye examination by a skilled ophthalmologist is the only way to diagnose diabetic eye disease. If your ophthalmologist finds evidence of diabetic retinopathy during your exam, your doctor may take additional steps (such as photographing the retina or special testing) to determine if you need treatment. If diabetic eye disease is diagnosed early, we can start treatment before any vision problems develop. We cannot stress this enough: if you are diabetic, please come in often for a routine diabetic eye exam in order to safeguard your sight.
Nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR), also known as background retinopathy, is the first stage of diabetic retinopathy. In this stage, tiny blood vessels in the eye leak blood or fluid. The leaking fluid causes the retina to swell or to form deposits called exudates. Many people with diabetes can have mild NPDR, which usually does not affect their vision. When vision is affected it is usually the result of macular edema and/or macular ischemia.
- Macular edema refers to swelling or thickening of the macula, a small area in the center of the retina that allows us to see fine details clearly. The swelling is caused by fluid leaking from the tiny blood vessels. It is the most common cause of vision loss in diabetes. Vision loss may be mild to severe, but even in the worst cases, peripheral vision is still maintained.
- Macular ischemia occurs when small blood vessels called capillaries close. This may cause blurry vision because the macula no longer receives sufficient blood flow to work properly.
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is caused by widespread loss of retinal blood flow. To supply blood to the area where blood loss occurred, the retina begins to grow new blood vessels. The growth of new, abnormal blood vessels on the surface of the retina or optic nerve is a process called neovascularization. Unfortunately, the new, abnormal blood vessels do not supply the retina with normal blood flow. Over time these abnormal blood vessels can lead to scarring, wrinkling or even a detachment of the retina. Because PDR can affect both central and peripheral vision, patients with PDR may experience more severe vision loss than those with NPDR. That’s why it’s so important that you get in for a routine diabetes eye test, especially if you notice any changes in your vision.
Vitreous hemorrhage occurs when the fragile new vessels bleed into the vitreous, a clear, jelly-like substance that fills the center of the eye. If the vitreous hemorrhage is small, a person might only see a few new dark floaters, but a very large hemorrhage could block out the majority of vision.
Tractional retinal detachment results when scar tissue from new blood vessel growth contract, causing the retina to pull away from its normal position This can lead to visual distortion or more severe vision loss if the macula or large areas of the retina detach from the back of the eye.
Neovascular glaucoma occurs when the new, abnormal blood vessels grow and block the normal flow of fluid out of the eye. If left untreated, the pressure builds up inside the eye causing damage to the optic nerve, resulting in glaucoma.
While most vision clinics may offer a diabetes eye test, it’s a good idea to find a comprehensive eye care center with skilled vision care specialists who can provide advanced treatment in the event your eyes are impacted by diabetes. If you’re in Olympia or Washington’s South Sound area, contact Clarus Eye Centre for a diabetic eye exam.