diabetic retinopathy

November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month in the United States. It is important to raise awareness on this subject because many people do not realize how debilitating diabetes can be for ocular health. To do their part in helping fulfill this month’s mission, the dedicated optometrists and ophthalmologists at Access Eye in Fredericksburg, Stafford, King George and Spotsylvania, VA, offer the following important information about diabetes.

Diabetic Retinopathy Is a Serious Threat

Diabetic retinopathy affects about one quarter of American adults with diabetes. More alarmingly, it is one of the top causes of blindness in the U.S. Unfortunately, any vision lost to this condition cannot be recovered, which makes preventing further loss essential.

Blood sugar spikes can damage the blood vessels in and around the retina. This damage can come in the form of obstructing blood flow or causing blood to leak. To compensate, the eyes may try to generate new blood vessels, but these vessels are usually faulty, compounding the problem.

Treating Diabetic Retinopathy

Treatments offered at Access Eye can help to slow or stall the progression of diabetic retinopathy. One example is VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factors) inhibiting medication, which reduces swelling in the macula. Another is laser surgery (or photocoagulation), which seals and shrinks the leaky, damaged blood vessels to prevent further harm. In advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy, a vitrectomy can remove the leaked blood in the eye so that light rays are able to reach the retina.

Of course, preventing diabetic retinopathy in the first place should be the goal. Patients who properly manage their diabetes are at a much lower risk for damage to blood vessels, because elevated blood sugar levels cause damage to the blood vessels. Our doctors also recommend that patients quit smoking and monitor their blood pressure.

Other Conditions

Diabetic retinopathy is not the only reason that people with diabetes should pay attention to their eye health. Diabetes is also linked to increased risk for other vision-altering eye conditions like cataracts and glaucoma. Cataracts are a clouding of the lens that hinders clear vision. Glaucoma is a buildup of pressure inside the eye that can permanently rob sight. Treatment is important for both conditions, particularly glaucoma.

Remain Vigilant If You Have Diabetes

Given the risks and potential repercussions of diabetic retinopathy, it is important that you establish a relationship with an eye doctor you trust and to undergo regular comprehensive eye exams. If you develop symptoms like blurry vision, floaters, ocular pain or any sudden change in vision, do not wait — schedule an appointment for immediate attention.

To make an appointment for an eye exam, or to receive care for previously diagnosed diabetic retinopathy, please call (540) 371-2020.