November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month! The goal is to work together to provide the public with the necessary information to help prevent the damaging effects that diabetes has on vision, including blindness.
Diabetes is a condition that impairs the body’s ability to process blood glucose, otherwise known as blood sugar.Over time, high blood glucose levels can damage the body’s organs. Possible complications include damage to large and small blood vessels, which can lead to heart attack, stroke, and problems with the eyes, kidneys, and nerves.
The most common complication of diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. High blood sugar is associated with a deterioration of the blood vessels in the retina of the eye. If these weakened vessels leak fluid or blood, they can damage or scar the retina and ultimately blur vision. In its most advanced stage, new abnormal blood vessels increase in number on the surface of the retina, which can lead to scarring and cell loss in the retina.
Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of new blindness among adults in Ireland. Pregnancy and high blood pressure may worsen this condition in diabetic patients.
Diabetes can be managed by medication prescribed by your doctor, taking regular exercise, having annual eye tests, and maintaining a healthy diet. This in turn can prevent or delay vision loss.
Other diabetic eye disease also includes cataract and glaucoma:
Cataracts is a clouding of the lens in the eye which leads to a decrease in vision. Adults with diabetes are 2-5 times more likely than those without diabetes to develop cataract. Cataract also tends to develop at an earlier age in people with diabetes.
Glaucoma is the name for an eye conditions in which the optic nerve is damaged at the point where it leaves the eye. This nerve carries information from the light sensitive layer in your eye, the retina, to the brain where it is perceived as a picture.
Why is prevention important?
Vision lost to diabetic retinopathy is sometimes irreversible. However, early detection and treatment can reduce the risk of blindness by 95 percent. Because diabetic retinopathy often lacks early symptoms, people with diabetes should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. People with diabetic retinopathy may need eye exams more frequently. Women with diabetes who become pregnant should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam as soon as possible. During pregnancy additional exams may be needed.