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  • Writer's pictureBright Eyes Family Vision

How Does Diabetes Affect Your Eyesight?

November is Diabetes Awareness Month! It is estimated that around 37 million people in the United States have diabetes - and about 25% of those are not diagnosed. Those with diabetes are more likely to develop eye diseases that cause vision loss and blindness, which is why this month we’ve decided to talk about some of those diseases and what you can do to best prevent damage to your sight!


You are at a higher risk of developing the following diseases if you have diabetes:


Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible vision loss and blindness in the United States. It is associated with damage to the optic nerve, and the most common form, open-angle glaucoma, is associated with elevated eye pressure. With no early symptoms, it develops gradually, which means that often people with glaucoma do not notice anything is wrong until their vision is already significantly damaged.


At Bright Eyes Family Vision, we assess eye pressure using the handheld iCare tonometer, which is painless and quick. Some describe the feeling like an eyelash tickling, and it lasts just a few seconds. This replaces the 'puff of air' test which is uncomfortable for a lot of people.


One of the options for glaucoma treatment is prescription eye drops. This is often the most common treatment. Eye drops can lower the pressure in your eye and prevent damage to the optic nerve.





Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a disease that often shows up later in life. The longer you have diabetes, the greater your risk becomes for developing diabetic retinopathy.


Symptoms include:

  • seeing spots or floaters

  • blurry vision

  • an area of darkness/blankness in your vision

  • poorer night vision


As the disease progresses, it can even lead to blindness. Your doctor can detect the disease during an eye exam. If you are diabetic, taking care of your diet, exercise, and medication can help to prevent or slow the disease in its early stages. However, once it has started to show symptoms and progresses into the later stages, there is no way to reverse the effects. Treatment options can stop the vision damage, and may include laser treatment, injections, or surgery.


Macular degeneration

Macular degeneration is deterioration of the macula, which is the small central area of the retina of the eye that is responsible for your central vision. Some early symptoms to look out for include shadowy areas in your central vision or unusually fuzzy or distorted vision. There are two types of macular degeneration: dry and wet. The dry form is more common - about 80% of cases. The wet form, though less common, typically leads to more severe vision loss and progresses much more rapidly.


The dry and wet form have different symptoms. Here's what to look out for for each type:


Dry macular degeneration: 

  • In early stages, there are usually no symptoms. The disease may be identified during a routine dilated eye exam.

  • In intermediate stages, some may experience central vision blurriness and trouble seeing in low light.

  • In late stages, you may see straight lines as wavy or crooked. More significant vision blurriness and blank spots will be noticed.


Wet macular degeneration:

  • Most symptoms are the same as late stages of the dry form: vision blurriness, blank spots, wavy/crooked lines

  • You may also notice colors are less vivid than they used to be, and it may be harder to see clearly in low lighting.


When it comes to treating macular degeneration, no FDA-approved treatments exist yet for the dry form, although nutritional intervention may help prevent its progression to the wet form. We prescribe the daily AREDS2 formula based on a study done to determine which vitamins are most beneficial for slowing the progression of the disease. This daily supplement contains vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin. For the wet form, treatments aimed at stopping abnormal blood vessel growth include FDA-approved drugs called Lucentis, Eylea, Macugen and Visudyne used with Photodynamic Therapy or PDT.





Cataracts

Cataracts are cloudy areas/spots in the lens of your eye. Often, they are not noticeable right away, but over time your vision may become more blurry.


Other symptoms of cataracts include:

  • double vision

  • poor vision at night

  • faded colors

  • lights suddenly seem too bright


If the cataracts begin to interrupt everyday activities, it may be time for surgery. Cataract surgery is a very safe and effective procedure, and according to the American Optometric Association, ~90% of cataract surgery patients report better vision following the surgery.



With all of these diseases, it is important to have annual dilated eye exams so the health of your eye can be assessed and early signs of disease can be detected! During these exams, eye drops are administered to dilate your pupils. This is painless and quick, and allows the doctor to take a look inside the eye for problems. We also take pictures of your eye in order to view the retina. Schedule your appointment today!


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