Diabetic eye disease is a term that encompasses a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may face as a complication of this disease. Each of these diseases has the potential to cause severe vision loss or even blindness.
Diabetic eye disease includes:
- Diabetic retinopathy: Damage to the blood vessels in the retina.
- Cataract: Clouding of the lens of the eye.
- Glaucoma: Increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that leads to optic nerve damage and loss of vision.
Diabetic eye disease is a leading cause of blindness and, as the National Eye Institute (NEI) points out, often there are no early warning signs. To reduce the risk of vision loss or blindness from diabetic eye disease, it is essential to find and treat the disease early. That means if you have diabetes, you should be sure to have a dilated eye examination at least once a year.
The numbers are discouraging - by 2030, an estimated 11 million people will have diabetic retinopathy. However, there is good news. According to the NEI, newer and better treatments for diabetic retinopathy are now available. You can ask Northridge optometrist Dr. Kathy Chriqui what treatment would be best for you or your loved one.
"Think of all the beautiful things you wouldn't see if you lost your sight," the NEI says. Early detection, timely treatment and appropriate follow-up care are the only ways to prevent vision loss. In addition to an annual dilated eye exam, the NEI also recommends that people with diabetes keep their health on TRACK:
Take your medications.
Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Add physical activity to your daily routine.
Control your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Kick the smoking habit.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common form of diabetic eye disease, and is a leading cause of blindness in American adults. Unfortunately, there are often no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. You won't feel any pain and you may not even notice changes in your vision until the disease has progressed. "Even in more advanced cases, the disease may progress a long way without symptoms," the NEI says. "This symptomless progression is why regular eye examinations for people with diabetes are so important".
If you have diabetes, you are also at risk for cataracts and glaucoma. According to the NEI, people with diabetes develop cataract at an earlier age than those without diabetes. Fortunately, surgery can be used to successfully treat cataracts.
The risk for developing glaucoma is nearly twice as high in people with diabetes as in other adults. And, as with diabetic retinopathy, the longer you've had diabetes, the greater your risk of getting glaucoma. Treatments also exist for glaucoma. Dr. Chriqui can discuss the options with you, which include medications, laser surgery and conventional surgery, at her Northridge eye clinic.