Type 1 or 2: The Importance of Protecting Your Vision Early On
June is recognized as Vision Research Month, and there are plenty of intrepid scientists working to relieve or cure eye diseases, including those that people with diabetes are susceptible to.
For instance, a recent report in The Journal of Pathology outlines a potential eye treatment that prevents and reverses certain characteristics of diabetic retinopathy. Though this preliminary research involved laboratory animals, the results indicate that vascular damage in retinopathy is not, as was believed, irreversible. These findings may also prove helpful with other vascular problems (e.g., kidney, stroke, heart disease).
Vision Research Month can also serve as a reminder for those with diabetes to make an appointment for their annual comprehensive dilated eye exam—to catch early and begin treatment on any developing conditions such as:
- Diabetic Retinopathy: damage to the small blood vessels in the retina that can eventually cause blindness.
- Diabetic Macular Edema (DME): leaking blood vessels cause an accumulation of fluid in the center of the retina, or macula, causing the central vision to blur.
- Cataract: the eye’s lens becomes cloudy blocking the passage of light, and blurring vision.
- Glaucoma: increased fluid pressure in the eye that can cause optic nerve damage and lead to vision loss.
Timely detection of these diseases can reduce the chance of severe vision loss by 95 percent; however, "Only about half of all people with diabetes get an annual comprehensive dilated eye exam, which is essential for detecting diabetic eye disease early, when it is most treatable," said NEI Director Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D.
Besides getting an annual eye exam, keeping blood sugar levels under control is also key to maintaining eye health, and vision research verifies this.
Eyes and Blood Sugar
In a study supported by the National Eye Institute, people with type 2 diabetes who intensively controlled their blood glucose levels were found, in the follow-up analysis, to have cut their risk of diabetic retinopathy in half.
“This study sends a powerful message to people with type 2 diabetes who worry about losing vision,” said Emily Chew, M.D., study author and deputy director of the NEI Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications. “Well-controlled glycemia, or blood sugar level, has a positive, measurable, and lasting effect on eye health.”
Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that people with type 1 diabetes who intensively control their blood glucose early in the disease, are 48 percent less likely to require eye surgery.
So, while researchers are looking for better ways to alleviate diabetes-related eye problems, good glucose control is still the best eye disease prevention, and an early vision diagnosis remains the first step to getting necessary treatment—and saving sight.