For patients with diabetes mellitus, you are probably aware of your body's inability to use and store sugar, and how it can affect your health. You may become disoriented, tired or thirsty due to fluctuations in your blood sugar.
Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication associated with diabetes, and it the leading cause of blindness among working-age Americans.
Although diabetic retinopathy is not painful, it can severely damage your vision. Early forms of this disease are called non-proliferative or background retinopathy. If either of these lead to macular edema, you may have difficulty with up-close work (such as reading), or you may notice a gradual blurring. If the abnormal blood vessels bleed, then your vision may become spotty, hazy or disappear altogether.
WHAT IS DIABETIC RETINOPATHY?
Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease affecting the retina and is a frequent complication of diabetes. Diabetes damages the small blood vessels in the retina and can lead to poor vision and even blindness. During the early stages, the tiny blood vessels in the eye weaken. The blood vessels develop small bulges that may burst and leak into the retina and into the gel-like fluid inside the eye called the vitreous gel. As the condition progresses, new fragile blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina, impairing vision. This is called proliferative retinopathy.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF DIABETIC RETINOPATHY?
It is possible to have diabetic retinopathy for some time without noticing any symptoms. Typically, it does not cause noticeable symptoms until significant damage has occurred and complications have developed.
Symptoms may include:
Blurred or distorted vision or difficulty reading
Floaters or flashes of light in your field of vision
Partial or total loss of vision or a shadow or veil across your field of vision
Pain in the eye
If any of these symptoms appear for the first time or increase, call your doctor
WHO DOES DIABETIC RETINOPATHY AFFECT?
The risk of developing diabetic retinopathy depends largely upon two factors, how long one has had diabetes and what type of diabetes one has. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop the disease. In addition, people with Type I diabetes (juvenile onset) are more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy than people with Type II diabetes (adult onset).
HOW TO AVOID DIABETIC RETINOPATHY
Help avoid damage to the retina by keeping blood sugar and blood pressure levels near normal. This can slow the progress of retinopathy and prevent vision loss. Have an eye exam by an eye specialist every year. Screening for diabetic retinopathy and other eye problems will not prevent diabetic eye disease, but it can help you avoid vision loss by allowing for early detection and treatment. And see an eye doctor immediately if changes in your vision occur. Changes in vision such as floaters, flashes of light, pain or pressure in the eye, blurry or double vision may be symptoms of serious damage to the retina. In most cases, the sooner the problem can be treated, the more effective the treatment will be.
HOW IS DIABETIC RETINOPATHY TREATED?
There is no cure for diabetic retinopathy. However, laser treatment (photocoagulation) can be very effective at preventing vision loss if it is done before the retina has been severely damaged. Surgical removal of the vitreous gel may also help improve vision if the retina has not been severely damaged.
Alcon and other companies are actively pursuing treatments for nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy.
Dr Herbert C. Becker Jr, MD, is a board certified retina specialist, whose expertise for all retina problems is avaible at our Joliet, Morris, and New lenox offices. To make an appointment with Dr Becker please call 815-729-3777.
How often should I visit my ophthalmologist?
If you have a history of eye disease, we recommend making regular appointments and following up as your ophthalmologist advises. Call now for more information or to schedule an appointment.
Can I bring a friend with me to my ophthalmologist appointment?
You are always welcome to bring a friend or family member with you to your appointments. An extra set of ears is always helpful so you don’t forget any important information your ophthalmologist goes over with you during your appointment.
How do I know if I should schedule an ophthalmologist appointment?
If you are having eye discomfort or trouble with your vision, schedule an appointment with your ophthalmologist. Health conditions, like high blood pressure or diabetes, increase your risk for certain diseases. If you have questions or think you might need to see an ophthalmologist, call for more information.
Do your ophthalmologists have tips on how I can protect my eyes?
Don’t forget to wear protective eyewear during activities like mowing the grass, doing construction work, or playing sports. If you wear contacts, take steps to prevent eye infections. Wash your hands before handling your contacts or touching your eyes, and be sure to replace them regularly.
When should I arrive at my ophthalmologist appointment?
We ask that you arrive at your eye appointment fifteen minutes early. That gives you time to fill out any necessary paperwork before your appointment with your doctor.
What should I bring for my ophthalmologist appointment?
You will need to bring your insurance information. If you have a referral from your primary care physician, please have that with you if you haven’t already sent it to us. And lastly, bring a list of all medications you are taking.
Can your ophthalmologists perform LASIK? What can I expect?
One of our most popular procedures at Spectrum Eye Institute is LASIK surgery. An outpatient procedure, LASIK surgery corrects the vision of patients who are nearsighted, farsighted or have astigmatism. Call now for more information or to see if LASIK might be right for you.
Does your ophthalmologist office offer cosmetic services?
Though ophthalmologists are known for medically necessary services, we also offer cosmetic procedures and services to help you look and feel your best. We offer Botox Cosmetic treatments that smooth deep wrinkles and crows’ feet around your eyes. Call our offices for more information and to schedule a consultation.