If you have diabetes, it could affect the health of your eyesight over time. Diabetic eye disease — also known as diabetic retinopathy — is an eye condition that can cause damage to the light-sensitive tissue in your retina.
At first, diabetic eye disease might not produce any symptoms. If left untreated, however, it could progress to vision problems and even blindness.
Anyone with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes could develop diabetic retinopathy. If you have diabetes, it’s important to get eye exams regularly to help manage the condition. While the symptoms might not be apparent early on, getting a diagnosis early can help you take steps to protect your vision throughout your life.
Learn more about diabetic eye disease and how you can seek treatment with a Las Vegas eye surgeon.
Symptoms of Diabetic Eye Disease
Early on, most people won’t notice any symptoms of diabetic retinopathy. However, as the condition develops, you might start to notice some mild symptoms that come and go. In the later stages of diabetic eye disease, blood vessels in your retina may start to bleed. If this happens, you might start to notice vision problems or abnormalities.
Some diabetic eye disease symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Sudden loss of vision in one eye
- Spots or floaters in your vision
- Fluctuating vision problems
- Dark spots, rings, or flashing lights
Keep in mind that these symptoms don’t necessarily mean that you have diabetic retinopathy. However, experiencing one or more of these symptoms can be a cause for concern.
Causes of Diabetic Eye Disease
The cause of diabetic retinopathy is the same in all cases: Type 1, Type 2, or gestational diabetes. Over time, having high blood sugar can damage the retina, blocking blood vessels and causing them to leak fluid or bleed.
For this reason, people with untreated diabetes are 25 times more likely to become blind than the general population. The longer you have diabetes, the higher your risk of developing diabetic eye disease. Over time, more than half of people with diabetes will develop the condition.
Other risk factors for diabetic retinopathy include:
- Poor control of blood sugar levels
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Tobacco use
How Do You Treat Diabetic Eye Disease?
If you have diabetes, it’s important to get regular eye exams. Early diabetic eye disease treatment can help curb the damage and prevent blindness.
An eye doctor or other professional can diagnose diabetic retinopathy as part of a dilated eye exam. After giving you eye drops to dilate your pupils, they may examine your eyes for signs of diabetic eye disease or other eye conditions.
Once they’ve diagnosed the condition, your eye doctor can work with you to develop a treatment plan. In mild cases, treatment may not be necessary. By controlling blood sugar and blood pressure levels, you can slow the progression of the disease or prevent it entirely. However, you will still need regular eye exams to keep an eye on how the disease is developing.
If the doctor determines that you have a more advanced case in a later stage, there are several treatment options available. In addition to managing your diabetes, you can get:
- Injections. Getting steroid injections can help slow down or even reverse diabetic retinopathy. This treatment helps reduce the amount of fluid leaking into your retina. This procedure may need to be repeated or combined with other forms of treatment to have a lasting effect.
- Laser treatment. Through laser treatment, an eye surgeon can also help control the progression of diabetic eye disease. Using a laser focused on the damaged retina, they can reduce abnormal blood vessel growth and prevent leaking.
- Vitrectomy. If you have severe bleeding or scarring in your retina, your eye doctor may recommend a type of eye surgery called a vitrectomy. A vitrectomy is a microsurgical procedure where the blood-filled vitreous is removed and replaced with a clear solution to reverse vision loss.
Diabetic Eye Disease Prevention
While there are some treatment options to help slow the progress of the disease, the best way to lower your risk of developing diabetic eye disease in the first place is by managing your diabetes.
Focus on getting regular exercise, eating healthy foods, and carefully following your physician’s instructions when using diabetes medications like insulin. Regular tests can help you keep track of your blood sugar levels. These lifestyle choices can also help you lower your cholesterol and blood sugar.
If you have diabetes, the development of diabetic retinopathy isn’t always preventable. However, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk. Managing your blood sugar and getting regular eye exams can help you protect your vision as you grow older.
When It’s Time to See a Las Vegas Eye Surgeon
The sooner you seek treatment, the more likely you will be able to prevent the worst of diabetic retinopathy’s effects.
Careful management of your diabetes is the best way to ensure that your vision lasts a lifetime. However, it’s also important to visit your eye doctor for a yearly exam, even if you don’t notice any vision problems. If you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, you may need to return for follow-up visits every two to four months to check the progression of the disease.
When is it time to seek treatment? Pay close attention to any vision changes and contact an eye doctor right away if your vision changes or you notice blurriness, spots, or abnormalities.
The Bottom Line
If left untreated, diabetic eye disease could lead to vision loss or blindness. With the right care, however, it doesn’t have to get to that point. By taking an active role in diabetes management and being proactive with eye exams, you can prevent the progression of this disease. If you’re looking for a Las Vegas eye surgeon you can trust, look no further than Brimhall Eye. When you come into our office, we’ll work with you to find the best path toward diabetic retinopathy treatment, including surgeries to protect you from vision loss. Learn more about our services or contact us today to schedule your consultation.