Navigating Diabetic Eye Disease: What Patients Should Know
November is recognized as Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month), providing an opportune moment to acknowledge its global public health implications. As the leading cause of preventable blindness among adults aged 20-74, diabetic retinopathy can impact anyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, while also increasing the risk for other serious vision conditions. Distinguishing truth from myths regarding diabetes' impact on vision, understanding associated conditions, and exploring available treatment options is crucial. Armed with this knowledge, you can proactively maintain your vision and determine when to seek ophthalmological care from a diabetic eye specialist.
Diabetic Retinopathy: Bigger Threat Than Previously Thought
Diabetes afflicts about 37.3 million Americans, including the estimated 8.5 million individuals who are undiagnosed. Diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes that inflicts damage to the retinal blood vessels, is the nation’s main cause of new blindness cases among those 18-64 – and the risk is growing. It now appears that U.S. rates are much higher than previously reported, with almost 10 million cases reported in 2021.
Poor Disease Management Plays a Role, but It’s Not Alone
Diabetic retinopathy may develop from failing to manage diabetes, including regularly taking insulin and maintaining a healthy weight, glucose, and cholesterol levels. However, another key factor is failure to get ophthalmologic care from a diabetic eye specialist, with as few as 15% having regular screenings and eye exams.
If you’re experiencing symptoms such as floaters, blurriness, dark areas of your vision, or difficulty perceiving colors, it could be early signs of diabetic retinopathy.
Contact a diabetic eye specialist right away for early diagnosis.
Diabetic Retinopathy, Neovascularization, and Glaucoma
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is an advanced form of the condition, characterized by the growth of abnormal and fragile blood vessels that are prone to bleeding into the retina and vitreous (the clear gel that fills the eye). A significant complication of PDR is neovascular glaucoma, an incurable condition characterized by the growth of blood vessels on the iris. This results in elevated pressure within the eye, leading to symptoms such as pain, redness, and diminished vision.
Diabetic Eye Exam Schedules Based on Diabetes Type
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that anyone with diabetes have regular comprehensive, dilated eye exams. However, the recommended frequency depends on the specific type of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes: A dilated eye exam is advised within five years of diagnosis and annually thereafter, with the possibility of more frequent exams.
- Type 2 diabetes: A dilated exam is necessary shortly after diagnosis, especially if the condition may have gone undiagnosed for an extended period, heightening risks. Again, more frequent exams may be recommended.
- Gestational diabetes: Individuals planning pregnancy should undergo a comprehensive eye exam. Exams during the first and last trimesters are crucial, given potential fluctuations in blood vessel pressure throughout the eyes.
Understanding Diabetes and Its Impact on Vision
Given the significant impact of diabetes on vision, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with possible symptoms. Early detection allows you to promptly inform your doctor and commence effective treatment. To schedule a diabetic eye exam in Central South Carolina, or for general questions, we invite you to contact Palmetto Retina Center today.