How Diabetes Affects Vision

There are usually no indicators of diabetic retinopathy. This eye disease can only be diagnosed by taking a comprehensive eye exam that is specific to the disease itself. People with diabetes are prone to developing diabetic retinopathy. This disease affects the blood vessels in the retina and the most common cause of vision loss, leading cause of vision impairment and blindness among adults.

High blood sugar from diabetes is aligned with the damage to the blood vessels in the retina. It causes the blood vessels to leak fluid or bleed, as well as distortion of vision. The early warning signs consist of: macular swelling, the appearance of “floating spots”, leaking blood vessels, pale deposits on the retina and damaged nerve tissue. Cataracts and Glaucoma are also a form of diabetic eye disease.

Those at Risk for Diabetic Eye Disease

Those with all types of diabetes are at risk for this eye disease (type 1, type 2 and gestational). The longer an individual has diabetes the more likely they’re at risk for developing it. If you are pregnant and have diabetes you are at risk for developing this condition and at a rapid rate.

Diabetic Macular Edema

This is a buildup of fluid in the macula of the retina. The macula functions as the determining factor for sharp, focal vision that is needed for reading, recognizing people and driving. Being one of the most common conditions that affects vision loss, about half of the people who are diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy will have diabetic macular edema.

Diabetic Retinopathy Detection

Both diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema are detecting through a comprehensive eye exam that includes the following tests:

    • Visual Acuity testing – this test is done through a standardized eye chart and measures the patient’s ability to see and read at several distances.
    • Tonometry – this is a test done by adding eye drops to numb the eye, followed by the use of a tonometer to probe the eye gently or blow a puff of air onto it in order to measure pressure within the eye.
    • Pupil dilation – this test is done by applying eye drops to the eye’s surface to dilate the pupil, which allows us to thoroughly study the retina and optic nerve.
    • Optical coherence tomography (OCT) – this is similar to using an ultrasound machine but through the use of light waves rather than sound waves. By using this technique, images are captured of the inside the eye that can be penetrated by light.

Treatment and Prevention

Vision lost through diabetic retinopathy is often times irreversible because of the damage that has gone on over time unsuspected. This is why early detection is imperative to your eye health and the prevention of potential development of eye diseases. There is a 95 percent chance of avoiding blindness if early detection methods are applied. Those with diabetes should make it a point to get a comprehensive eye exam on a yearly basis.

People already diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy may need to get eye exams on a frequent basis (every 2 to 4 months) for treatment purposes. Controlling diabetes through medication and healthy dietary measures has proven to slow the onset and development of diabetic retinopathy.



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