Wouldn't You Like to Dilate?
November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month. Not many people realize that diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among working-age Americans. That’s why it’s important to educate yourself and your family and friends about the importance of annual dilated eye exams.
Are you at risk?
Nearly one third of diabetics are undiagnosed and many people go years before the diagnosis is made. While diabetes can have symptoms, they may not be present in the early stages. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that everyone over age 45 be tested at least every 3 years. Your doctor may recommend more frequent testing if you have the following risk factors:
A family history of diabetes
You are African-American, Hispanic, or Asian
You have elevated cholesterol or high blood pressure
While I recommend annual eye exams for everyone, it is especially important when you are diagnosed with diabetes. You have a higher risk for diabetic eye disease if you have had diabetes for many years, or if your blood sugars fluctuate or are consistently elevated. Diabetic eye disease includes conditions like diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma. The best way to prevent or delay vision loss from these conditions are through dilated eye exams and good blood glucose control.
Diabetic Retinopathy is a condition affecting the blood vessels of the retina, the inner lining of the eye that detects light. When blood sugars are elevated, the blood vessel walls can weaken and begin to leak. This leakage can lead to distorted vision and damaged tissue. In more severe cases, the blood vessels may lose their ability to transport blood causing some areas of the retina to be deprived of oxygen. This can stimulate the growth of new, abnormal blood vessels which tend to be leaky, leading to further tissue damage and vision loss. It is possible to treat diabetic retinopathy but severe cases can still cause vision impairment.
Cataracts are a clouding of the lens inside the eye, which causes blurred vision, glare, and decreased contrast sensitivity. If you live long enough, you’re bound to get some form of cataracts but diabetics tend to get them earlier in life. This can be corrected with surgery, however diabetes can often slow the healing process.
Glaucoma is a progressive disease affecting the optic nerve, which is what transmits the visual information to the brain. Having diabetes nearly doubles your risk for developing glaucoma. While there is also treatment for glaucoma, the risk of vision loss is still present.
What to Expect From Your Eye Exam
At Bright Eyes Family Vision, we provide the highest level of care to all of our patients. If you have diabetes, you can expect a thorough dilated examination to evaluate your eyes for any signs of diabetic eye disease. We also utilize digital retinal screening photos which gives us a detailed image of your retina that we use to monitor for changes over time. We’ll discuss the best ways to maintain your eye health, as well as communicate your results to your primary care doctor. Give us a call today to schedule your comprehensive eye examination!