November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, an annual effort to shed light on how diabetes can affect vision. Diabetes increases a person’s risk of developing vision-impairing diseases, including diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma. These diseases can even lead to blindness. Yet many people are unaware of the link between diabetes and eye health, and even fewer know how to protect their vision.
What is Diabetic Eye Disease?
Diabetic eye disease is a term used to describe eye issues that result from diabetes, such as:
- Diabetic retinopathy: This disease occurs when high blood sugar levels cause the blood vessels in the retina to swell, leak, or close. Some people also experience abnormal blood cell growth within the tissue that lines the back of the eye. These changes can lead to visual impairment and vision loss.
- Diabetic macular edema (DME): This complication of diabetic retinopathy is characterized by swelling in the center of the retina, known as the macula. The swelling occurs when a small bulge in the eye leaks blood and other fluid into the retina. Like diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema can cause visual complications and blindness.
- Cataracts: A cataract forms when proteins clump together, causing clouded vision. Individuals with diabetes have a higher risk of developing cataracts than those without.
- Glaucoma: This disease causes damage to the eye’s optic nerve. It typically results from fluid build-up that increases the pressure in the eye. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness for those over 60. Diabetes nearly doubles a person’s risk of developing glaucoma.
Can You Prevent Diabetic Eye Disease?
It isn’t always possible to prevent diabetic retinopathy. However, there are steps you can take to protect your vision and lower your risk of eye disease.
If you have diabetes, you can defend against severe visual issues by doing the following:
- Manage your blood glucose and have your A1C checked regularly
- Control your blood pressure and cholesterol
- Don’t smoke
- Take medication as prescribed
- Look out for vision changes
Beyond these steps, the most important thing you can do for your eye health is to schedule routine, comprehensive eye exams. They are crucial because many diabetic eye diseases do not present symptoms in the early stages.
Most people with diabetes should schedule an eye exam once a year. Without eye exams, you may not know you have a problem until you experience severe changes in your vision.
Treating Diabetic Eye Disease
The appropriate treatment for diabetic eye disease varies. The first step is often to get your blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure under control and close to normal levels.
From there, the right intervention depends heavily on the disease. Treatments are generally designed to prevent, slow, or reduce vision loss, as many diabetic eye diseases are currently incurable. The earlier you can detect the issue and begin treatment, the better.
Cataracts can be removed through surgery. Meanwhile, minimally invasive glaucoma surgery can offer long-term lowered eye pressure. For other conditions, your options may include:
- Eye drops
- Oral medications
- Laser treatment
- Drug injections
Our skilled ophthalmologists will work with you to develop a customized plan for treating or managing your diabetic eye disease. With the right interventions, there is hope for keeping your vision.
Schedule a Consultation
If it’s been more than a year since your last eye exam, schedule a visit to Susskind & Almallah Eye Associates at 732-349-5622. Our eye doctors are available to answer any questions you may have about diabetes and eye health. We serve patients in Toms River, Brick, Barnegat, and Manalapan Township, New Jersey.