Diabetes and Eye Disease: Annual Eye Exams Can Save Your Sight

If you have diabetes, it is important to have an annual dilated retina eye exam.

According to an online survey by Diabetic Connect, 25 percent of people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes do not get a regular eye exam. Most of the surveyed individuals who did not have annual exams indicated that they were unaware of its significance.

The Dilated Retina Eye Exam

Diabetic macular edema is the primary cause of vision loss or blindness among diabetics, and it is detected through a dilated eye exam. An annual eye exam is crucial because there are frequently no symptoms until the disease is in an advanced stage and vision is already damaged.

A dilated eye exam is painless. Drops are put in a patient’s eyes, causing the pupils to dilate, or expand. This allows the examiner to see the retina and other eye structures clearly and to assess them for damage or signs of disease. Optometrists, retina specialists and ophthalmologists can perform this procedure.

Diabetic Eye Disease

The three most common types of diabetic eye disease, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI), are diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma. The primary cause of blindness in people with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy, caused by an alteration of the retina’s blood vessels.

Some individuals with diabetic retinophathy experience vascular swelling, and their blood vessels leak fluid into the eye’s macula, the area of the retina that provides clear vision. This is known as diabetic macular edema (DME). Others with diabetic retinopathy form new blood vessels on the surface of their retina. Either form of the disease can cause partial loss of vision or total blindness.

There are treatment options available for diabetic retinopathy if it is detected early. Treatments include laser eye surgery or injections of anti-VEGF (anti-vascular endothelial growth factor). These procedures inhibit the protein that causes leakage in the eye and abnormal growth of blood vessels.

Annual Exams Are Crucial

About 25 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and according to the CDC it is the leading cause of blindness in adults between the ages of 20 and 74. Between 2005 and 2008, approximately 4.2 million people in the U.S. had diabetic retinopathy, and 655,000 of those individuals had advanced cases.

The NEI reports that early detection via a dilated eye exam plus immediate treatment and regular follow-ups can reduce the risk of severe vision impairment from diabetic retinopathy by 95 percent.

“The best way to prevent unnecessary vision loss is through annual retina eye exams,” says Dr. Carl C. Awh, a retina specialist. If you haven’t had an eye exam within the past year, consider setting up an appointment today.

Source: Medical News Today

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