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Diabetes and Your Vision

Diabetes and Your Vision

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes and are afraid of losing your vision, you are not alone. Diabetes has many faces—it affects people of all ages, races, and nationalities. Of the almost 30 million people in the United States with diabetes, almost half will eventually develop some sort of diabetic eye disease.

Diabetes primarily affects the blood vessels in the retina, the light sensing tissue at the back of the eye. These vessels work like hoses, bringing oxygen and other nutrients into and out of the eye. Damage to these vessels is called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy develops gradually and painlessly.

Although good control of your blood sugar and blood pressure can help prevent diabetic eye disease, significant problems can still occur. Regular dilated eye examinations are therefore the only way to diagnose problems early before vision loss occurs.

Diabetes primarily affects the blood vessels that nourish the retina. Diabetes causes them to sprout tiny leaks, or microaneurysms (non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy), which makes the surrounding retina swell and not work properly. Central vision can become blurred from swelling of fluid within the retina (diabetic macular edema). Diabetes can also make the blood vessels close off. Some eyes will develop tiny new blood vessels in an attempt to increase the retinal blood supply (proliferative diabetic retinopathy). These new vessels do not help the eye. They are fragile and can cause blindness by bleeding (vitreous hemorrhage) or causing a retinal detachment.

Approximately 50% of diabetics will develop some form of diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of vision loss and new-onset blindness in the United States in those 20 to 74 years of age, with new cases of blindness developing in 12,000 to 24,000 persons annually. Remarkably, much of this vision loss is preventable with early diagnosis and treatment.

The eye is the only place in the body where physicians can see your blood vessels without having to cut you open. If you are experiencing changes with the blood vessels in your eye you are likely having those changes throughout all the vessels in your body. This is why it is so important to get a diabetic eye exam each year!

(healthy retina) (retina with severe diabetic retinopathy)

We welcome the opportunity to help you care for your vision health and optical needs. We're conveniently located in the lower level of Grant Regional Health Center in Lancaster. For appointments, contact Fuerste Eye Clinic (888) 582-0769.

Tyler Risma, MD

Luke Ploessl, OD