Diabetic Retinopathy: What it is and How to Avoid it

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. While diabetes has many effects on a person's health, the damage diabetes can cause in a person's eyes is often forgotten.

Diabetes affects millions of people in the United States and over a hundred million around the world. The negative effects that diabetes can have on one's eye health include: changes to vision, cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. Long periods of high blood sugar can lead to diabetic retinopathy, which occurs when there is a weakening or swelling of the blood vessels in the retina or back of the eye. The swelling can eventually cause blood leakage, the growth of new blood vessels, and other changes within the eye itself. Diabetic retinopathy is a relatively common complication of diabetes that diabetic patients become more prone to developing the longer they have diabetes. 

However, vision loss caused by diabetes can be prevented. A routine eye exam is often enough to diagnose potential vision-threatening changes happening within one's eyes. Proper diabetic care, including medications, a healthy diet, and exercise, are important in keeping your eyes healthy. Eye exams are recommended every year, though your doctor may recommend that you have them more often in order to prevent total vision loss that can accompany diabetic retinopathy. 

"Routine eye care is so important in patients with diabetes, even when there are no symptoms," said Olathe optometrist Dr. Jeffry Gerson. "Prevention and early diagnosis, along with treatment, are really the keys to maintaining excellent eye health and vision."

If you have any questions or concerns about your eyes, be sure to schedule an appointment with your optometrist.

November 20, 2018