Diabetes comes with a slew of complications, including eye diseases. In fact, diabetes is a leading cause of blindness in the U.S. The three major eye ocular complications that can be caused by diabetes are diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma. If you are concerned about diabetes and eye problems, it is important to schedule an eye exam to better understand these three major complications.
In diabetic retinopathy, the most common type of diabetic eye disease, small blood vessels in the retina become damaged. If left untreated, this can cause permanent vision loss or blindness. Retinopathy has two major stages: nonproliferative and proliferative. In nonproliferative retinopathy, the small blood vessels (also known as capillaries) become blocked. There may be no noticeable symptoms in early forms of nonproliferative retinopathy. Nonproliferative retinopathy can advance to proliferative retinopathy, where the capillaries close off from so much damage. As a result, new blood vessels form. These new vessels are weaker and cannot contain blood very well and leaks occur. The leaks can block vision and scar tissue can grow and then shrink, causing retinal detachment and blindness. Surgery and laser therapy can be used to treat retinopathy, especially if the retinopathy is detected early.
Cataracts are cloudy or foggy patches within the lens of the eye. This leads to blurred vision. While a majority of people develop cataracts simply from aging, diabetics tend to get cataracts at a younger age and the cataracts progress faster. Cataracts are removed by surgery. The natural lens is taken out and replaced with an artificial lens.
Glaucoma occurs when pressure builds up inside of the eye. This pressure causes damage to the optic nerve and can lead to complete blindness if not treated. The risk of glaucoma increases with the duration of diabetes. Glaucoma can be treated with medication or surgery.
Because some of these complications do not present symptoms until the disease is fairly advanced, it is important to have regular dilated eye exams done soon after diagnosis of diabetes and annually thereafter. Pregnant women with diabetes should also have an eye exam done during the pregnancy due to the bodily changes taking place. Maintaining good control of blood sugar and blood pressure, along with careful monitoring of eye health, can reduce the risk of diabetes-related vision problems.
Diabetes Health Fair
CentraCare Health-Monticello hosted the Diabetes Health Fair on November 12th. This free event featured blood pressure checks and glucose screenings: tips for healthy food choices: and interactive education on diabetes products, technology, resources and treatments. Dr. Tracy Schauer was in attendance at the event to answer questions on how diabetes can affect the eyes. Dr. Schauer will also be speaking at one of the monthly community education classes at CentraCare Health-Monticello on February 4, 2014. This is also a free event and all are welcome to attend.