It is recommend that everyone in the US undergoes a comprehensive eye exam every 12-24 months, and this goes double for diabetics. In addition to being more susceptible to certain eye diseases than the general population, there are diabetes-specific conditions which must be diagnosed early to minimize the chances of permanent vision impairment or blindness.
Since diabetics are vulnerable to specific diseases, our exams are adapted to search for even the tiniest tell-tale signs of both diabetic retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema (DME), in addition to assessing your overall eye health and visual acuity.
Your optometrist will start by applying eye drops which will dilate your pupils, providing a larger ‘window” into the eye. By using advanced visual imaging technology we can examine your eye in exceptional detail. Such precise assessments can lead to the diagnosis of eye diseases weeks, months or even years before their effects would normally appear.
It is a vision-threatening disease unique to diabetics. It comes in two different forms: nonproliferative and proliferative.
This is where the capillaries in your eyes weaken and the vessel walls leak blood and other fluids into the eye. This can impair your vision. The extent of vision impairment depends on whether a case is mild, moderate or severe.
The more advanced stage of the disease, the weakened blood vessels around the retina not only leak blood and fluids into the eye, but eventually they die and become scar tissue. This tissue can contract, pulling at the retina and threatening retinal detachment, the result of which is total blindness.
There are no symptoms which present prior to your eyesight being affected. However, once the disease has progressed you could notice any of the following:
There is currently no cure for diabetic retinopathy, at any stage. However, controlled laser treatment (aka photocoagulation) can be used to seal any rupturing blood vessels and prevent further fluid leakage. For this reason, early detection is absolutely vital: the earlier we diagnose the disease, the more vision we may be able to preserve.
Diabetic Macular Edema is a secondary illness developed by about 50% of those with diabetic retinopathy. DME is when the blood vessel walls of the macula are degraded over time and begin to leak. Unlike diabetic retinopathy, which causes fluids leak into the eyeball, DME occurs when these fluids directly interfere with the macula, which is responsible for providing us with clear, sharp central vision.
Your central vision will be compromised. More specifically, you may experience:
There are options with laser therapy and anti-VEGF treatments, but their appropriateness should be discussed at length with your optometrist before taking any decisive action.