Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetes is a disease that can affect the circulation throughout the body, including the eyes. Damage to the blood vessels in the retina is called Diabetic Retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness among Americans. Poorly controlled blood sugar levels are a contributing factor to this damage. People with early stages of the disease may not notice any changes in their vision. As the disease progresses, people may experience blurred vision which can quickly lead to vision loss. Without treatment, diabetic retinopathy can advance from mild to severe stages and result in blindness.

If you are diabetic, the best way to preserve your vision is to try to prevent retinopathy and undergo routine dilated eye exams each year. Tight control of your blood sugar and blood pressure can help slow the development or progression of the disease. In many cases, additional treatments may be necessary if there is swelling, leakage of fluid or abnormal new vessel growth on the surface of the retina.

There is no cure for diabetic retinopathy, so early detection and treatment are essential for slowing the progression of vision loss. Anti-vasogenic injections of medications such as Lucentis, Avastin and Eylea have become the mainstay of treatment for controlling retinal swelling and new blood vessel growth. These medications help by stopping new blood vessel growth and leakage. Laser treatments, such as Focal Laser and Pan-Retinal-Photocoagulation, are also commonly performed in the office setting for diabetic retinopathy complicated by the formation of new blood vessels and swelling of the macula.

Anti-vasogenic injections and laser treatments are often successful in slowing down the process of proliferative diabetic retinopathy, however, there are some patients that may also go on to need surgery. Patients who develop tractional retinal detachment or bleeding (vitreous hemorrhage) which does not clear up after six weeks may need a vitrectomy. Vitrectomy surgery is a common retinal surgery performed in the Hospital or Out-patient surgery setting. Vitrectomy may be necessary to stabilize vision and reduce the risk of visual loss.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends:

  • Patients with Type 1 Diabetes should have yearly screenings for diabetic retinopathy beginning 5 years after the onset of disease.
  • Patients with Type 2 Diabetes should have a prompt exam at the time of diagnosis and at least yearly examinations thereafter.
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