What Patients Need to Know:
Diabetes is an epidemic. Over 37 million Americans have diabetes and are therefore at an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, amputation, kidney disease, blindness, and death. Patients usually understand the effect diabetes can have on the cardiovascular and renal systems, but often wonder how diabetes can affect the eyes.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease of small blood vessels. Some of the smallest blood vessels in our bodies are our retinal blood vessels, which supply blood to the retina, the tissue lining the inside of the eyes that is responsible for our vision. The health of our retinal blood vessels is a good indicator of the health of the blood vessels in the rest of our bodies.
This is why our CHDC medical providers emphasize the importance of all diabetic patients having a diabetic eye examination every year.
A diabetic eye exam includes checking vision and prescription, but more importantly includes dilation and a retinal photo to fully assess the health of the eyes. If the sugar in the blood is too high, or fluctuates too much, it can damage the walls of our blood vessels, causing them to weaken and leak blood.
The first sign of diabetes in the eyes is often retinal hemorrhages, which means blood is leaking into the retina. If blood leaks into the most important part of the retina, called the macula, it can cause permanent and irreversible vision loss. Diabetes is a leading cause of preventable blindness.
What Can I Do?
Complications often have no warning signs. Therefore, annual dilated eye exams are an essential part of diabetic care, and our CHDC optometrists will communicate the results of your exam to your primary care provider. PCPs, optometrists, podiatrists, dentists, and pharmacists are important members of the diabetic health care team. Scheduling eye, foot, and dental exams yearly will help maintain your overall health.
Diabetic patients can also help prevent or slow the development of diabetic eye disease by taking medications as prescribed, sticking to a healthy diet, exercising regularly, controlling high blood pressure, and avoiding alcohol and smoking. Schedule your yearly diabetic eye exam today!