Diabetes and the Eye | What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
February 15, 2018
Diabetic retinopathy is the eye disease caused by diabetes.
Though diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, severe vision loss can usually be prevented with regular and timely eye examinations. The American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Optometry all recommend that all patients with the diagnosis of diabetes be examined at least once a year, regardless of symptoms or sugar control.
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
Blurry vision is the most common symptom of diabetic retinopathy. Symptoms of the disease range from no symptoms to blindness. It is our goal to examine and diagnose patients with diabetic retinopathy before symptoms develop.
Blurry vision results from abnormal accumulation of fluid in the macula, the functional center of the retina. With time, the normal blood vessels of the retina become leaky. Fluid leaches out of the the normal retinal blood vessels and pools in the retina.
When fluid accumulates in the macula, called diabetic macular edema, the vision becomes blurred. The more leakage and fluid accumulation, the blurrier the vision.
Advanced diabetic retinopathy can be associated with floaters. Bleeding into the vitreous, called a vitreous hemorrhage, can occur in cases of proliferative diabetic retinopathy, the advanced stage of the disease which may cause blindness.
Regular Diabetic Eye Exams
All patients with diabetes must be examined regularly regardless of symptoms (i.e. even if vision is 20/20 and perfect).
The goal of regular examination is to diagnose and treat diabetic retinopathy before there are any effects on the vision.hat is, we hope to diagnose the retinopathy before any vision loss whatsoever.
Sugar control is important, but great sugar control does not prevent the disease.
With regular dilated examinations, the chance of severe vision loss is <1% over the patient's lifetime.
Diabetic Patients Develop Cataracts
Patients with diabetes tend to develop cataracts at an earlier age. Symptoms of cataracts include blurry vision which can be indistinguishable from blurry vision caused by diabetic retinopathy.
Patients with cataracts and diabetes may require treatment of the diabetic retinopathy before successful cataract surgery can be performed.