The Importance of Eye Exams for Those with Diabetes

The Importance of Eye Exams for Those with Diabetes

(ARA): Nearly 23 million Americans are affected by diabetes and, of these people, one-third, or almost 6 million, are unaware that they have the disease. Undiagnosed, diabetes can result in vision impairment, a frequent complication of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and blindness.
An optometrist is an important member of the diabetes health care team. Part of living with diabetes is having a dilated eye examination on at least an annual basis -- more often for those people with existing eye issues or more serious retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy, a diabetes-related eye disease, is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults 20 to 74 years old. Other vision problems caused by diabetes include: vision changes, glaucoma, and cataracts. Through a comprehensive dilated eye exam, doctors of optometry can look inside the eye and examine blood vessels directly, detecting signs and symptoms of retinopathy.
Prolonged blood sugar elevation damages the delicate blood vessels inside the eye, causing them to leak, bleed and become blocked. Symptoms may include:
* Fluctuating or blurring of vision
* Occasional double vision
* Night vision problems
* Flashers and floaters seen by one or both eyes.
Diabetes and its complications may affect many parts of the eye, resulting in changes in nearsightedness, farsightedness, and premature presbyopia (the inability to focus on close objects that often occurs in the early-to-mid-forties as a natural part of aging).
During a comprehensive eye exam, your doctor of optometry will perform a variety of tests, including looking in your eyes with lights and lenses that magnify the view of the retina, to identify signs of diabetes and other eye-related health problems, because early detection is important. In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, laser therapy may be effective. In more advanced cases, surgery may be required.
Anyone experiencing changes in vision should immediately see an optometrist. Equally important is monitoring and maintaining control of diabetes, including adherence to your primary care physician's instructions on diet, exercise and medication. By doing so, chances are good that you can enjoy a lifetime of good vision and health.
For more information, visit www.aoa.org.