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Health Notes

Diabetes Diabetes is a chronic disorder that causes blood sugar levels to be too high. Approximately 16 million Americans have diabetes and the numbers are increasing. Over time, diabetes can cause changes in your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart, and blood vessels. Every year as many as 24,000 people lose their sight from diabetic retinopathy and in 90 per cent of these cases, blindness could have been prevented with early diagnosis and treatment.

Diabetic retinopathy is a disease that damages the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. It has no symptoms and affects nearly half of people with diabetes. If detected and treated in a timely manner, severe vision loss can usually be prevented. People who have had diabetes for several years and those with poorly controlled blood sugars have higher risks of developing eye complications. Background diabetic retinopathy is the early stage of retinal disease and requires only careful monitoring. If new blood vessels form on the retina, it is called proliferative retinopathy and needs prompt treatment. Fluid leaking from blood vessels in the center of the retina can also occur and is known as macular edema. 

Who can get diabetic eye disease? Anyone with diabetes can develop eye disease. Even those people who control their blood sugars with diet and exercise or oral medications. 

What are the symptoms? Often there are no symptoms in the early stages. Vision may be excellent until the disease becomes severe. There is no pain or redness with the eyes.

Diabetes How is diabetic eye disease detected? Only by having a comprehensive eye examination. This includes having your pupils dilated for a detailed examination of your retina. Tests will also be done to detect glaucoma, cataracts, and eye muscle imbalance as these conditions are much more common in people with diabetes.

How is diabetic retinopathy treated? Laser surgery is used to treat the proliferative form of diabetic retinopathy. A small laser light is aimed through the pupil and onto the retina. The beam of light makes hundreds of tiny burns on the retinal surface that destroys the new growth of blood vessels. In macular edema, the laser light seals the leaking blood vessels. Current treatment is approximately 90 per cent successful, but early treatment is most successful.

What can you do to keep your eyes healthy? Keep your blood sugars under good control. Bring your blood pressure down as high blood pressure can make eye problems worse. See us immediately if you should notice blurred or double vision, sudden onset of flashes or floaters, or any pain or redness of your eyes. Most importantly have a comprehensive eye examination at least once a year, even if you are having no apparent problems.

Be sure to ask us for the latest information at your next eye examination.

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