Diabetes is a disease affecting millions of Americans. If you have diabetes, you run a greater risk of getting eye disorders or going blind. Through regular checkups with us, it is easy to keep minor problems just that: minor. Preventative care is the key.

The Diabetic Eye

If you have diabetes mellitus, your body does not use and store glucose properly. Over time, diabetes can damage blood vessels in the retina, the nerve layer at the back of the eye that senses light and helps to send images to the brain. The damage to retinal vessels is referred to as diabetic retinopathy.

Retinopathy is a general term used for diabetes patients that experience eye issues. You are at risk of developing retinopathy if you do not keep your blood sugar or blood pressure controlled. It is also based on how long you have been living with diabetes. The longer you’ve been living with it, the greater the risk.

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) is an early stage of diabetic retinopathy. In this stage, tiny blood vessels within the retina leak blood or fluid. The leaking fluid causes the retina to swell or to form deposits called exudates.

Many people with diabetes have mild NPDR, which usually does not affect their vision. When vision is affected, it is the result of macular edema or macular ischemia, or both.

Macular edema is swelling or thickening of the macula, a small area in the center of the retina that allows us to see fine details clearly. The swelling is caused by fluid leaking from the blood vessels. It is the most common cause of visual loss in diabetes. Vision loss may be mild to severe, but even in the worst cases, peripheral (side) vision continues to function. Laser treatment can be used to help control vision loss from macular edema. Newer treatments are being investigated.

Macular ischemia occurs when small blood vessels (capillaries) close. Vision blurs because the macula no longer receives sufficient blood supply to work properly. Unfortunately, there are no effective treatments for macular ischemia.

A medical eye examination is the only way to discover any changes inside of your eye. If your optometrist finds diabetic retinopathy, he or she may order special imaging of the retina to better determine if you need treatment.

If you have diabetes, early detection of diabetic retinopathy is the best protection against loss of vision. You can significantly lower your risk of vision loss by maintaining strict control of your blood glucose and visiting your optometrist regularly. People with diabetes should schedule examinations at least once a year. Pregnant women with diabetes should schedule an appointment in their first trimester, because retinopathy can progress quickly during pregnancy. More frequent medical eye examinations may be necessary after a diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy.

 Call us in San Antonio, at 210-826-1720, if you wish to schedule an appointment. Let us help protect your general health as well as your vision.