Almost everyone knows of someone who is affected by diabetes. About 26 million American adults and children have either Type I or Type II diabetes. How many people are headed toward diabetes? Multiply that number by almost three. Diabetes is certainly one of the most widespread diseases in the U.S., and it is growing.
Every November is American Diabetes Month, and it is a perfect time to recognize the signs of diabetes and talk about prevention and treatment. Many Americans have diabetes, and they are not even aware (Source: Diabetes.org). Individuals with diabetes are at risk for eye problems, collectively known as diabetic eye disease. Among the eye conditions under the diabetic eye disease umbrella are cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
The retina is a nerve layer that is located in the back of your eye, and it relays images to the brain. Diabetic retinopathy is a disease of the retina, and it can lead to decreased vision and eventual blindness. This degenerative disease develops when blood vessels in the eye become weak, and blood and fluid can leak into the retina. Diabetes makes retinopathy occur because uncontrolled blood sugar can cause damage to your blood vessels. When new blood vessels grow on the retina, they are weak and they can break open very easily. Blood can leak into the middle of your eye and change your vision, or scar tissue can form and cause a retinal detachment called proliferative retinopathy.
What are the Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy?
Most often, diabetic retinopathy has no symptoms until it has progressed enough to change your vision. When you notice that your vision is cloudy or blurry, retinopathy is already in advanced stages. Some symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:
- Pain in the eye
- Blurry vision
- Drastic vision changes
How Can You Prevent Diabetic Retinopathy?
Having routine dilated eye exams are the best way for your eye doctor to diagnose diabetic retinopathy before the condition alters your vision. If you have a family history of diabetes or you are pre-diabetic, you need to have your blood sugar checked regularly by your primary care physician to make certain that your glucose levels are within normal range. Smoking can also put you at risk for diabetic retinopathy, so get help quitting if you are a smoker. As is the case with all conditions, early diagnosis means more effective treatment, so contact an ophthalmologist in your area to preserve your vision and prevent diabetic retinopathy (Source: Web MD).