What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that occurs when high blood sugar affects blood vessels in the retina, causing them to leak and distort vision. This can lead to vision loss and blindness in diabetics. Diabetic retinopathy can also lead to other serious eye conditions, including diabetic macular edema (DME), neovascular glaucoma, and retinal detachment.
There are a number of symptoms of diabetic retinopathy that indicate the disease has advanced to a more severe stage. These include:
- Blurry vision
- An increasing number of “floaters”
- Dark or empty areas of your vision
- Colors appear faded or washed out
- Halos around lights
- Poor night vision
- Loss of central vision
- Early Detection Dramatically Lowers Blindness Risk
Early diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy can lower the risk of blindness from the disease by as much as 95 percent. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that everyone living with diabetes get eye exams at least once a year, although some people may need a comprehensive dilated eye exam every 2 to 4 months.
More specifically, Type 1 diabetics should receive an exam within five years of their diagnosis, Type 2 diabetics should receive an exam as soon as they get a diagnosis, and pregnant women with diabetes should receive an eye exam within their first trimester.
- Know The Risk Factors
You may be at an increased risk of contracting diabetic retinopathy if you one or more of the following apply to you:
- Duration of diabetes (the longer you have diabetes, the greater the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy)
- Poor blood sugar control
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Tobacco use
- Being African-American, Hispanic or Native American
- Tips For Prevention
The first step you should take to minimize your risk of diabetic retinopathy is to minimize your risk for developing diabetes. How? Exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet to keep your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible.
If you already have diabetes, tell your eye doctor right away to determine how often you will need a comprehensive eye exam. This is the only way that your doctor can diagnose diabetic retinopathy, and treat it before irreversible damage sets in. You must also work with your primary care physician (PCP) to manage your glucose levels through a test called the A1C. Having high blood pressure or high cholesterol in conjunction with diabetes also increases your risk for diabetic retinopathy, so be sure to keep those under control as well.
The expert ophthalmologists at Everett & Hurite are committed to providing high quality eye care to patients of all ages. Our eye specialists are equipped with the latest technology to accurately diagnose diabetic retinopathy, and can develop a customized treatment plan based on your individual needs. We have 10 offices conveniently located in Western Pennsylvania. Request an appointment with one of the physicians or call 412-288-0858.