Diabetic Eye Care

Man in glasses testing his bloodPeople with diabetes are more susceptible to health problems that can affect important functions of the body. Vision is no exception. High blood sugar levels in diabetics can lead to severe vision loss or worse, permanent blindness.

What is diabetic eye disease?

Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye conditions that develop as a result of type 1 or type 2 diabetes:

  • Diabetic Retinopathy. The retina is a light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye. In diabetics, high blood sugar levels can cause blood vessels in the retina to leak blood or fluid, which can result in distorted vision or permanent blindness. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss in people with diabetes.
  • Diabetic Macular Edema (DME). DME is a consequence of diabetic retinopathy — retinal blood vessels leak fluid into the macula, a small area of the retina that’s responsible for the eye’s ability to focus on fine details. DME causes the macula to swell, which results in poor straight-ahead vision. About half of the people who have diabetic retinopathy will also develop DME.
  • Cataracts. A cataract occurs when the lens of the eye becomes clouded with proteins, which results in blurry vision. While it’s normal for cataracts to develop with age, adults with diabetes are 2-5 times more likely to have cataracts. Diabetic patients also develop cataracts at a younger age than most people.
  • Glaucoma. There are several types of glaucoma, all of which cause damage to the optic nerve, a bundle of nerve endings that transmit visual information to the brain. Diabetic adults are nearly twice as likely to develop glaucoma.

Can I prevent diabetic eye disease?

Vision that is lost to diabetic retinopathy or diabetic macular edema is often irreversible. It is possible, however, to reduce your risk of blindness with early detection and treatment. Careful maintenance of blood sugar levels, a healthy diet, and exercise will also lower your risk of vision loss from diabetes.

Comprehensive eye exams for diabetics

Patients with diabetes should have a comprehensive eye exam at least once a year. If you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy or DME, it’s likely you’ll need to schedule eye exams more frequently. This will ensure your eye doctor can monitor the progression of the disease and provide you with treatment options to maintain your vision for as long as possible. We also work closely with your primary care provider by communicating the results of your dilated eye exam with them.

Treatment for diabetic eye disease

In patients with diabetic retinopathy, laser surgery can often be used to help seal blood vessels that leak fluid into the retina. A procedure known as a vitrectomy can also help remove fluid from the back of the eye, which restores vision by allowing light to focus properly on the retina.

Anti-VEGF injection therapy and corticosteroids may also be recommended to help reduce macular swelling in patients with DME.