Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetic eye disease, also known as Diabetic retinopathy, is an ocular manifestation of diabetes, a systemic disease, which affects up to 80 percent of all patients who have had diabetes for 10 years or more. Despite these intimidating statistics, research indicates that at least 90% of these new cases could be reduced if there were proper and vigilant treatment and monitoring of the eyes. The longer a person has diabetes, the higher his or her chances of developing diabetic retinopathy. Each year in the United States, diabetic retinopathy accounts for 12% of all new cases of blindness. It is also the leading cause of blindness for people aged 20 to 64 years.
Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetes complication that affects the eyes. It's caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina).
You may have diabetic retinopathy for a long time without noticing any symptoms. Typically, retinopathy does not cause noticeable symptoms until significant damage has occurred and complications have developed.
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy and its complications may include:
- Blurred, double, or distorted vision or difficulty reading.
- Floaters or spots in your vision.
- Partial or total loss of vision or a shadow or veil across your field of vision.
- Pain, pressure, or constant redness of the eye.
Treatment, which depends largely on the type of diabetic retinopathy you have and how severe it is, is geared to slowing or stopping progression of the condition.
Early diabetic retinopathy
If you have mild or moderate nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy, you may not need treatment right away. However, your eye doctor will closely monitor your eyes to determine when you might need treatment.
Work with your diabetes doctor (endocrinologist) to determine if there are ways to improve your diabetes management. When diabetic retinopathy is mild or moderate, good blood sugar control can usually slow the progression.
Advanced diabetic retinopathy
If you have proliferative diabetic retinopathy or macular edema, you'll need prompt treatment. Depending on the specific problems with your retina, options may include laser, intraocular injections, or surgery. These mesures often slow or stop the progression of diabetic retinopathy, but they are not a cure. Because diabetes is a lifelong condition, future retinal damage and vision loss are still possible. Even after treatment for diabetic retinopathy, you'll need regular eye exams. At some point, additional treatment may be recommended.
Sources: The Mayo Clinic, WebMD