Around 40% of people with diabetes have some degree of diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of adult blindness. However, having routine diabetic eye exams allows your ophthalmologist to monitor your eye health and treat any issues early on.
Here at Retina Specialists, with five convenient locations in Dallas, DeSoto, Plano, Mesquite, and Waxahachie, Texas, our team of board-certified ophthalmologists offers comprehensive diabetic eye exams and treatment for diabetic eye diseases to protect your vision. Let’s explore how diabetes affects your eyes and why your regular diabetic eye exam matters.
How diabetes can affect the eyes
The elevated blood sugar levels and extra fluid caused by diabetes damages your blood vessels, including the tiny blood vessels in your eyes. In the short term, swelling in those tiny blood vessels causes blurry vision, although this goes away when your blood sugar returns to normal.
However, if you don’t manage your diabetes correctly, and your blood sugar stays elevated over time, it can permanently damage the blood vessels in your eyes. The damaged vessels swell and leak fluid into your eyes, which can cause scarring and other problems.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetes-related eye disease. Located at the back of your eye, your retina turns the light that enters your eye into signals that travel along your optic nerve to your brain. Diabetic retinopathy develops when the blood vessels in your eye weaken, bulge, and leak into your retina, causing scarring. Over time, this triggers the growth of new abnormal blood vessels, which can lead to severe vision impairment.
Diabetic retinopathy can lead to macular edema, which is swelling in your macula — the part of your retina that provides central vision. You could also develop neovascular glaucoma as the abnormal blood vessels leak and increase the pressure inside your eyeballs.
Diabetes also significantly increases your risk of developing cataracts and open-angle glaucoma.
Signs of diabetic eye disease
Diabetic retinopathy and other diabetes-related eye diseases don’t usually cause symptoms until your vision is already permanently damaged. This is why it’s so critical for you to have regular diabetic eye exams. During this routine exam, your ophthalmologist can identify early signs of eye disease and provide treatment to protect your eyes. In fact, when diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed and treated early, it reduces your risk of blindness by 95%.
What to expect during a diabetic eye exam
During your diabetic eye exam, your ophthalmologist does more than assess your vision. They also examine your retina in detail. Typically, your ophthalmologist dilates your pupils and uses a slit lamp to get a magnified view of your retinas. They also screen for signs of glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
Treatments for diabetic eye diseases
Our experienced ophthalmologists provide personalized treatments to address diabetic eye diseases. For example, they can prescribe medication to stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels and laser treatments to get rid of any existing abnormal vessels. Depending on your needs, they can also perform surgeries such as vitrectomy or cataract lens transplants to improve your vision.
If you have diabetes and are looking for expert eye care, call us here at Retina Specialists or schedule a diabetic eye exam online today.