Diabetes is one of the most common, chronic health problems affecting the U.S. population. Research estimates that as many as 100 million adults in the United States are currently already living with the condition or are on the cusp of developing it – a condition referred to as pre-diabetes. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that is caused by the body no longer being able to regulate its blood sugar levels. Instead, patients have to make dietary changes and/or take medication to keep their blood sugar stable.
Diabetes can cause sufferers to experience a range of different problems. However, many people don’t realize that diabetes can have a direct effect on their eye health and vision too. Many people with diabetes go on to develop a condition known as diabetic retinopathy – a complication of their persistently high blood sugar levels. If you are diabetic, then you should be attending regular diabetic eye exams which are used to check for indications of diabetic retinopathy and, where necessary, prescribe treatment to help.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that occurs when persistently high blood sugar levels cause damage to the blood vessels that deliver blood and nutrients to the eyes to keep them healthy. When this happens, the damage can cause blood and other fluids to leak onto the retina. The retina is an area of light sensitive cells at the very back of the eye that convert light refracted by the eyes into signals that are sent to the brain, which tells us what we can see. If blood and fluid leak onto the retina, it can cause scarring which can affect the messages that are sent to the brain, causing our vision to be impaired.
Vision lost as a result of diabetic retinopathy is permanent, so it is important for patients with diabetes to be carefully monitored for indicators of the disease.
Diabetic retinopathy affects patients with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. However, there are some people who are at even greater risk of developing the condition including people who:
Fail to control or poorly control their blood sugar levels
Have a long history of diabetes
Have high cholesterol
Have high blood pressure
Diabetic eye exams are simple and straightforward. They are also non-invasive, although you will be given eyedrops which will blur your vision, and these may cause your eyes to sting for a brief moment. Once they have taken effect, you will be asked to rest your head against a device and stare down a lens. At the other end of the lens is a camera which will take pictures of the back of your eyes. These will be used to assess the blood vessels for signs of changes that could indicate diabetic retinopathy.
In addition to the images of the back of your eye being taken, you’ll also be given a visual acuity test. This is where you will be asked to read letters off of a chart a short distance away, as well as reading from a card held in front of you. This test will be used to tell your eye doctor if your vision is impaired at any given distance.
If your test shows that you have signs of diabetic retinopathy, your eye doctor will talk to you about the treatments that could help you to control your condition. This could involve a combination of elements, including controlling your diabetes more effectively, taking medications or more invasive treatment to preserve your vision. Your eye doctor will give you more specific information based on your individual circumstances.
Need to know more about diabetic eye exams? Don’t hesitate to talk to our expert eyecare team at TMS Eyecare at any one of our convenient locations: 316-669-4760 (Oak Creek) 316-686-7212 (21st and Estelle) 620-442-2577 ( Arkansas City)