It may be surprising, but often it’s the ophthalmologist who diagnoses diabetes. How can diabetes be detected by looking at the eye? During a dilated eye exam the blood vessels of the retina can be seen in detail and reveal much about the health of the body in general. Because diabetes affects the vascular system, it has a profound effect on the retina, the most vascular area of the body.
Diabetic retinopathy is now the leading cause of blindness in the United States in people 20-60 years old.
Forms of Diabetic Retinopathy
Background diabetic retinopathy:
occurs when the blood vessels of the retina (the lining in the back of the eye) develop tiny holes, or close off, allowing fluid or blood to leak into the retina. The excess fluid causes swelling, resulting in reduced vision.
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy:
occurs after the retinal blood vessels close or when abnormal blood vessels grow into the eye. This results in the loss of vision and the ability to see at night and to adjust from light to dark.
Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy
Treatment of diabetic retinopathy depends on the location of the disease and the degree of damage to the retina. If the damage to the blood vessels occurs only in the peripheral retina, careful monitoring of the disease may be all that is necessary.When the damage affects the central vision, however, laser treatment is usually necessary.
In cases where there are leaking blood vessels the laser is used to seal the vessels and reduce their leakage allowing the retinal tissue to dry. In cases where there is an abnormal growth of blood vessels or large areas without adequate blood flow, the laser reduces the need for nutrients thus stunting the growth of further abnormal vessels.
Prevention of Diabetic Retinopathy
Since there is no cure for diabetes yet, close monitoring and management of the disease is the best way to prevent blindness. It is recommended that people with diabetes have an annual complete eye exam by an ophthalmologist to check the health of the eye and detect early signs of diabetic retinopathy.
The single most important thing a person with diabetes can do to prevent the complications of diabetes, including diabetic retinopathy, is to control blood sugar levels. Also important are avoiding the use of tobacco, controlling blood pressure and engaging in regular exercise.
If diabetic retinopathy goes unchecked, treatment becomes difficult, and the possibility of vision loss increases.
At Complete Eye Care we are diligently working with patients to help make blindness from diabetes a thing of the past.
If you want more information or an exam to check for signs of diabetic retinopathy, click here to fill out our quick email form or call our office at 810-732-2272, so we can be of service.