Overview

While it is true that the primary sign of diabetes is high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), it can lead to many other problems throughout the body. In the eye, Diabetes Type 1 or Type 2 can lead to premature cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy (bleeding in the back of the eye). Diabetic eye examinations are recommended yearly. At Wallerich Eye Care, we partner with your primary care provider or specialist (endocrinology) to provide a diabetic eye report, as it is an important indicator of your diabetic management!

Symptoms

Diabetic retinopathy usually occurs in both eyes, but the disease often does not have many signs or symptoms in the early stages noticeable by the patient. Therefore, an annual eye examination is recommended for detection. The symptoms often exhibited by patients in moderate/advanced stages of the disease are as follows:

  • Cloudy or blurry vision
  • Loss of central or peripheral vision acutely
  • “Blood” or red spot/spider web in your vision
  • Complete vision loss suddenly

Causes

Most people are familiar with diabetes being a disease that causes increased blood sugar levels; however, the disease affects small blood vessels known as capillaries. Unlike most healthcare providers, eye doctors are able to evaluate these blood vessels through views in the back of the eye. When diabetes is uncontrolled or worsens, these small blood vessels or capillaries become leaky. As a result, patients develop diabetic retinopathy.

The American Diabetes Association reports that diabetes is a leading cause of blindness between the ages of 20-74. There are about 7.7 million Americans with diabetic eye disease.

Treatment Options

With years of research and development, treatments are effective in treating and managing more advanced forms of diabetic retinopathy. However, it is important to reduce your risk as best as possible. Patients with moderate/severe diabetic retinopathy often are recommended to consult with a vitreo-retinal specialist to discuss options available that may include:

  • Intraocular injections
  • Focal laser treatment
  • Panretinal laser treatments
  • Vitrectomy surgery

Commonly Asked Questions

How can you reduce your risk of diabetic eye disease?

  • The National Eye Institute and National Institute of Health recommend the acronym “TRACK” to improve your overall wellness:
    • Take your medication as prescribed by your doctor
    • Reach and maintain a healthy weight
    • Add physical activity to your daily routine
    • Control your ABC’s – A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels
    • Kick the smoking habit

How often should you be consulting your eye doctor for medical retina checks?

The American Optometric Association, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, National Institute of Health, and American Diabetes Association all recommend an annual eye examination or more frequent pending your eye doctor’s recommendation.