Diabetes can affect your health in many ways and can have an impact on both your vision and eye health. However, this doesn’t mean your eyes can’t be protected; you can do your part to safeguard your vision by going for regular eye exams.
Eye exams are your first line of defence against eye conditions caused by diabetes, and early diagnosis can help you properly manage these problems before they damage your eyes. During the beginning stages of the disease, there may be no noticeable symptoms, so it is important to have yearly eye exams.
DIABETES RAISES THE RISK OF EYE DISEASE
Diabetes is a systemic disease that impacts how your body processes glucose (sugar). If there is too much sugar in your bloodstream, it can cause issues with your eyes.
Diabetes increases your risk of developing various eye diseases, including:
- Diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when your blood sugar levels are too high, causing changes to the delicate blood vessels in your retina. This can cause the vessels to leak and bulge which over time causes retinal detachment and permanent vision loss.
- Diabetic macular edema. If diabetic retinopathy isn’t addressed, you may develop diabetic macular edema. As your retina’s blood vessels leak, the central part of your retina, the macula swells, leading to serious damage and, eventually, blindness.
- Open-angle glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma, and your chances of developing this serious condition nearly doubles when you have diabetes. Open-angle glaucoma occurs when the pressure in your eye increases.
- Cataracts. Cataracts develop when our eye’s natural crystalline lens becomes cloudy. Cataracts are a natural part of the aging process, and most of us will develop them at some point during our lifetime. Diabetes can significantly increase the rate at which cataracts develop.
DIAGNOSING DIABETIC EYE DISEASES
During your eye exam, we will use the latest in eye care technology to monitor the effects your diabetes is having on your eye health and vision. This technology includes:
OPTICAL COHERENCE TOMOGRAPHY
Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) scans capture images of the retina in cross section. The technology used is not unlike an ultrasound, but instead of using sound, OCTs use light to capture the highly detailed images optometrists use to help detect signs of diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema much earlier than with traditional microscopes and lenses.
Fundus photography allows us to take a detailed colour photograph of the inside of your eye, giving us the ability to examine your retina, macula, optic nerve, and retinal vascular system in great detail. These images can help us detect and follow diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema with greater sensitivity and accuracy.
Whether you have type 1, type 2, or even just gestational diabetes, you are at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy. The longer you have had the disease, the greater the risk. It is essential to keep your blood sugar levels under control to prevent vision loss, and this may require a trip back to your primary care physician.
Treating diabetic retinopathy can include vitrectomy, replacing the inner gel-like substance that supports the eyeball structure, and retinal laser surgery.