Diabetes is a disease that affects many areas of your body, including the eyes. It increases your risks for various eye conditions like cataracts and glaucoma. However, the primary concern for eye health in diabetic people is the development of diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of blindness in adults.
According to statistics, 40 percent of diabetic people have some degree of diabetic retinopathy. Having a routine diabetic retinal exam allows your doctor to monitor the health of your eyes and treat any issue that arises thereon.
How Does Diabetes Affect Your Eyes?
Diabetes elevates blood sugar levels which damages your blood vessels including the tiny ones in your eyes. In the short term, these vessels swell resulting in a blurry vision that disappears when your blood sugar gets back to normal.
Unfortunately, if you don’t manage your diabetes, the blood sugar remains elevated over time, which damages the blood vessels in your eyes. The damaged vessels leak fluids into the eye resulting in scarring and other problems.
Diabetic retinopathy, a common diabetes-related eye condition is located at the back of your eye. Here, the retina turns the light getting into your eye as signals that travel to the brain through the optic nerve. The condition results when blood vessels in your eye budge, weaken and leak to your retina, resulting in scarring. Over time, this triggers the growth of abnormal vessels resulting in severe vision impairment.
The Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
In the earliest stages, diabetic retinopathy has no symptoms. The initial symptoms may be mild or barely noticeable. With time, the condition worsens leading to partial or permanent blindness.
Therefore, visit your doctor for a routine eye exam once you experience any of these conditions:
- Blurry vision
- Dots, floaters or dark strings, in your field of vision
- Empty or dark areas in your vision field
- Fluctuating vision changes
- Difficulty focusing
- Altered colour vision
In most cases, diabetic retinopathy affects both eyes at the same time and in equal measure. However, experiencing any of these conditions on one eye doesn’t mean you don’t have the condition. Make an appointment with your doctor for a routine eye checkup and draft an appropriate treatment plan.
How is Diabetic Retinopathy Diagnosed?
The diagnosis is done through a dilated eye exam. For this, your ophthalmologist puts drops in your eyes to dilate or widen your pupils.
Dilating the pupils allows the doctor to easily assess the damage caused by retinopathy. While dilated, your doctor may also conduct other diagnostic tests.
Newer techniques resulting in improved sensitivity and accuracy are becoming more available which improves the standard of care for detecting vision-threatening eye problems.
Choose Your Provider Carefully
Diabetic eye exams should be performed by a healthcare professional who is experienced and knowledgeable in the diagnostic and treatment of diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetes increases blood sugar levels in your body leading to serious eye conditions or even blindness. If you are diabetic, then be sure to under a comprehensive eye exam at least once every year.