Everyone needs to take care of their eyes, but when you have diabetes, eye exams are especially important.
1. Eye damage can occur prior to any symptoms developing.
Diabetes is a systemic disease affecting many organs. The eye is the only organ with blood vessels that are readily visible to a trained provider without having to dissect or cut tissues. When damage occurs to the blood vessels in the eye, this is called diabetic retinopathy. When diabetic retinopathy develops, there often are no symptoms until the retinopathy has reached a moderate or advanced stage. In the advanced stage, the retinopathy can cause rapid and permanent vision loss. During your diabetic eye exam, your eye care provider can detect not only subtle changes in your eyes caused by diabetes, but also can detect cataracts, glaucoma and any other eye-related issue.
2. The earlier any eye disease is found, typically, the better the prognosis.
Diabetic damage to the eye should be addressed as soon as possible in order to ensure the best outcome. Even if your annual eye exam was normal, we encourage you to report symptoms like those listed below to your eye care provider right away.
- Blurred vision
- Eye pain
- Double vision
- Difficulty reading
- Halos around lights
- A sudden appearance of spots or floaters
- Flashing lights
- Objects that look larger or smaller than normal
- A dark or empty spot in center of your vision
- Difficulty seeing well at night
- Droopy eyelid
These symptoms can be caused by something as simple as a change in your eyeglass or contact lens prescription, or it may signal a more serious diabetic change.
3. Treatments are available when indicated for diabetic eye disease.
When diabetic eye disease is found early and managed diligently by an ophthalmologist or an optometrist, it can be stopped or slowed; though, the best treatment is to prevent the development of diabetic retinopathy. Strict control of your blood glucose levels reduces your risk of developing vision loss from diabetic retinopathy. In addition, closely related, high blood pressure, kidney problems and high cholesterol also should be controlled, as they too can affect the blood vessels in your eyes.