Did you know that November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month? According to the National Eye Institute, diabetic eye disease refers to a group of problems that can affect your eyes if you have diabetes. These problems include diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and the leading cause of blindness in American adults.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar from diabetes damages the small blood vessels in your retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of your eye. Initially, diabetic retinopathy may cause no symptoms or only mild vision problems. However, diabetic retinopathy can get worse and lead to vision loss.
There are two types of diabetic retinopathy: nonproliferative and proliferative. Nonproliferative retinopathy is the early stage of the disease and happens when tiny blood vessels inside your retina become blocked. Proliferative retinopathy is the advanced stage of the disease and happens when new blood vessels grow on the surface of your retina. These new blood vessels are very fragile and can leak blood into your eye, causing vision loss.
How Can I Prevent Diabetic Retinopathy?
The best way to prevent diabetic retinopathy is to keep your blood sugar levels under control. You should also have a comprehensive eye exam at least once a year so that your doctor can check for signs of diabetic retinopathy and other eye problems.
If you have diabetic retinopathy, there are treatments available that can help prevent vision loss. Early treatment with laser surgery can help slow or stop the progression of nonproliferative retinopathy. For proliferative retinopathy, laser surgery can also be used to destroy abnormal new blood vessels and shrink others, so they leak less often. In some cases, vitrectomy—a surgical procedure to remove blood from the center of your eye—may be necessary to treat proliferative retinopathy.
If you have diabetes, it’s important to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year so that your doctor can check for signs of diabetic retinopathy or other eye problems. There are treatments available that can help prevent vision loss from diabetic retinopathy, but early detection is key. Schedule an eye exam with Dr. Ellen Merkin today!