Diabetic eye disease affects millions of Americans. This November, Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, is a great time to learn more about the condition and how to protect your vision. The longer someone has diabetes, the greater their risk for developing diabetic eye disease. If you are living with diabetes, this post is a quick reminder to ensure you are taking the proactive steps to monitor your eye health and protect your vision.
There are a few key things to remember about diabetic eye disease:
- Diabetic eye disease is the leading cause of blindness in adults.
- Diabetic eye disease can be managed and treated if caught early.
- Diabetic eye disease can be prevented through regular comprehensive dilated eye exams.
There are four main types of diabetic eye disease: diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic macular edema.
- Diabetic retinopathy is the most common form, and occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the retina. This is the leading cause of blindness in adults ages 20-74 and occurs when diabetes damages the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. Diabetic Macular Edema happens when those same damaged blood vessels leak fluid into the macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision.
- Cataracts are another common type of diabetic eye disease, and occur when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy causing blurry or double vision that can make it difficult to see. Cataracts can be treated with surgery.
- Glaucoma symptoms can start slowly, with no pain, and include vision loss, tunnel vision, and seeing halos around lights. This damage is caused by increased pressure in the eye that causes damage to the optic nerve. Diabetes doubles the chances of having glaucoma.
- Diabetic macular edema is the final type of diabetic eye disease, and occurs when fluid leaks into the macula, a part of the retina responsible for clear central vision. Diabetic macular edema is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over age 50, often causing vision loss or even blindness.
While there is currently no cure for diabetic eye disease, it can be managed and controlled with early detection and treatment. A comprehensive dilated eye exam is the best way to detect diabetic eye disease early. Treatment options are available for all four types of diabetic eye disease, and range from lifestyle changes to surgery. If you have diabetes, it's important to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam every year to protect your vision.