By Cheryl L. Dejewski
With diabetes at epidemic levels, you probably know (or are) one of the 29+ million Americans with the disease. Be aware. Diabetes does more than affect blood sugar levels. Without proper precautions, it can rob a person of their sight. Eye Care Specialists, a local ophthalmology practice recognized for exceptional service in the Latino community, especially in the care of diabetic patients, provides the following information to help protect vision.
How does diabetes affect the eyes?
With diabetes, fluctuating and high blood sugar levels can cause the blood vessels that nourish the retina in the back of the eye to become weak or abnormal. This leads to leakage and bleeding that can blur vision and permanently impair sight. All diabetics—type 1 or 2, insulin-dependent or not—are at risk, which can occur upon onset and increases with the number of years you are diabetic. Up to 45% of diabetics have some degree of diabetic retinopathy (damage to the retina). And, if you are Latino, you have up to a three times greater risk of losing vision to diabetes than a white person.
What are the symptoms of diabetic eye disease?
Usually, none. Most people don’t notice a problem until retinopathy is so far advanced that lost vision can’t be restored. That’s why annual dilated eye exams are crucial. Also, call your doctor immediately if you notice vision changes in one or both eyes, numerous floating spots (like spider webs), or a veil over your vision. Also, get checked if you become pregnant.
How is it detected?
Because blood sugar level fluctuations can temporarily affect vision and significant retinopathy can exist even if a person’s vision appears to be good, diabetes-related eye damage can only be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye exam that includes pupil dilation (enlargement with drops) to best see inside and thoroughly check the back of the eye.
How is it treated?
Some eye care specialists are specially trained in the use of medication (Avastin, Eylea and Lucentis) injections into the eye to stop abnormal blood vessel leakage and growth. Results from injection treatment can be quite successful, including stabilization of vision and, in some cases, actual improvement in sight.
How can I prevent diabetes-related vision loss?
Diabetes-related sight loss is often preventable with blood sugar control, yearly exams and early intervention. But an eye care specialist’s expertise and treatments are of no use if you don’t go in for regular checks.
FREE Booklets & Information
Eye Care Specialists’ doctors are dedicated to providing the highest quality diabetes, cataract and glaucoma care. Call 414-321-7035 for FREE copies of their booklets on these topics or to schedule an appointment for a thorough examination at their offices on 7th & Wisconsin Avenue, Mayfair Road across from the mall, or 102nd & National Ave. Appointments are often covered by insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. If these options are not applicable, arrangements can be made to accept cash, check, credit card or financing plan payment. Information is also available at www.eyecarespecialists.net.
Optional Extra Info:
How to reduce diabetes-related vision loss
• Have a blood sugar test every three years after age 45 to screen for diabetes
• Keep blood glucose levels close to normal through diet, medication and exercise
• Don’t smoke
• Keep blood pressure under control
• Keep cholesterol levels low
• Check hemoglobin A1c levels at least every four months. Aim for less than 7.0
• Schedule dilated eye exams once a year, or as often as your Eye M.D. suggests