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Diabetic Eye Exams

Diabetes can affect the human body in many ways. The condition occurs when the body does not use and store sugar properly. This can cause high blood-sugar levels, excessive thirst, and excessive urination. It may also result in changes to the body’s veins, arteries, and blood vessels. In terms of your vision, diabetes can lead to the development of cataracts, glaucoma, and damaged blood vessels inside the eye and, overall, put you at risk for diabetic eye disease, otherwise known as diabetic retinopathy.

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What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic eye disease (or diabetic retinopathy) is a complication of diabetes that can result in loss of vision. This condition is caused by negative changes in the blood vessels of the eye. When retinal blood vessels are damaged, they may leak fluid/blood, grow fragile, and develop scar tissue. This fluid and scaring blurs and distorts the images that are picked up by the retina. The retina is a nerve layer at the back of the eye that senses light and helps to send images to your brain. If the images coming into the retina are damaged, your sight is impaired.

Developing Diabetic Retinopathy

The longer a person has diabetes, the more at risk they are of developing diabetic retinopathy. This diabetic eye disease is the leading cause of new blindness among adults in the United States. People with untreated diabetes are said to be 25 times more at risk for blindness than the general population. Additionally, about 80% of people who’ve had diabetes for at least 15 years have some blood vessel damage to their retina. However, thanks to the advancements of today, with early diagnosis and proper treatment, only a small percentage of people who develop diabetic retinopathy have serious vision problems. Note—pregnancy and high blood pressure may aggravate diabetic retinopathy.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Unfortunately, there are no symptoms during the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, which is what makes the disease so dangerous. In the later stages, swelling from leaking blood vessels can occur and blur and distort vision, making objects look bigger, smaller, blurred, or otherwise distorted.

The best way to protect yourself against the harmful side effects of diabetic eye disease is by having regular examinations with your trusted eye doctor. Different forms of the disease, including serious conditions like proliferative retinopathy, can be present without symptoms. So you could be going about your daily life not knowing that an extremely harmful disease is damaging your vision. Therefore, regular eye examinations are a good idea even if you seem completely healthy. If you have diabetes, it is especially important to schedule these checkups with your eye doctor so he or she can ensure you are not developing diabetic eye disease/diabetic retinopathy.

When your eye doctor examines you for traces of diabetic eye disease, he or she will look inside the eye using an instrument called an ophthalmoscope. The pupils may need to be dilated (enlarged) with eye drops beforehand. If your eye doctor finds diabetic retinopathy, he or she may order color photographs of the retina or a special test called a fluorescein angiography to find out if you need treatment. Fluorescein angiography is a test where dye is injected into your arm and special photos of your eye are taken. From there, your eye doctor will discuss your treatment options.

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Preventing Diabetic Retinopathy

Unfortunately, people suffering from diabetes are at a higher risk for a number of eye diseases, many of which can lead to severe vision loss and blindness. Diabetes places patients at a higher risk for cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy, all of which can threaten vision and negatively affect daily life.

Prevention is the best way to fight diabetic retinopathy, and the key to prevention is carefully managing your blood sugar level, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol. Unfortunately, there is no cure for diabetic retinopathy. But, through careful management of blood sugar, a healthy diet and exercise regimen, and regular visits to our office for eye exams, you and your ophthalmologist or optometrist can keep your diabetes in check and prevent retinopathy.

Why Choose Southern Eye Group?

At Southern Eye Group, we’re passionate about helping our patients achieve great vision. Our ophthalmologists and optometrists, and their highly-trained team of eye care specialists, work hard to customize treatment to the unique needs of every patient. We design personalized plans to combat any eye disease or chronic eye condition. For patients with diabetes, eye disease is even more of a concern, so it’s important to get a head start on prevention and treatment.

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Contact Us

If you suffer from diabetes or think you might be experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, acting quickly may be the key to saving your vision. At Southern Eye Group, our eye doctors are experts in diabetic eye care and have years of experience treating patients at all stages of the condition. We’ll work with you to prevent, diagnose, and manage eye diseases before they damage your vision.

The doctors at Southern Eye Group have either authored or reviewed and approved this content.