It is estimated that around 10% of the adult American population has diabetes; and of every two known cases there is one undiagnosed case. Diabetes is categorizes as type one, or juvenile diabetes, where the disease strikes unexpectedly in mostly younger patients; and type two which is more common and which develops in adults. People are more likely to get type 2 diabetes as they get older, and more overweight.
Diabetes can give severe complications on the long term, the eyes being targeted frequently. Diabetic eye disease is the number one reason adult people become legally blind. Blindness occurs when the retina, the inside lining of the eye, is involved. This is called diabetic retinopathy.
Vision is lost because of leakage and swelling; invasion of new vascular growths, bleeding, or a combination of the three. Essentially, diabetic retinal vessels become leaky, and ultimately disappear, depriving the retina of sufficient blood supply. The eye will produce new vessels in attempt to provide more oxygen, but these new vessels do not help the retina and lead to bleeding and retinal detachments.
Vision loss is often a late symptom; people may have diabetic retinopathy without significant vision loss, and often these patients do not know of their eye disease. By the time there is vision loss the damage may already be done.
A regular eye exam for diabetic patients is therefore very important.A good eye exam involves vision and eye pressure checks, but also detailed evaluation of the retina through a dilated pupil. Often additional tests are necessary, such as fluorescein angiography to highlite the retinal vascular changes, and OCT scanning to measure central swelling.
Treatments consist of laser to seal off leaking vessels and treat loss of circulation; and intraocular surgery to remove blood and put the retina back in place.
Once a year eye exams are indicated for patients with little or no retinopathy; but more frequent exams are necessary as the disease progresses. Failure to have regular eye checks may result in permanent retinal damage and vision loss.
It pays to stick to your doctors recommendations on how to treat your disease; patients with well controlled blood sugars in general are less likely to develop severe vision loss.