Eyecare is particularly important for people with diabetes because they are at increased risk of developing eye complications from the disease. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults age 25 to 74 (Valero and Drouilhet, 2001).
High blood glucose and high blood pressure from diabetes can affect four parts of your eye:
- Retina. The retina is the lining at the back of the eye. The retina’s job is to sense light coming into the eye.
- Vitreous. The vitreous is a jelly-like fluid that fills the back of the eye.
- Lens. The lens is at the front of the eye. The lens focuses light on the retina.
- Optic nerve. The optic nerve is the eye’s main nerve to the brain.
Diabetic Retinopathy is the medical term for the most common diabetes eye problem.
You may not have any signs of diabetes retina damage, or you may have one or more signs:
- blurry or double vision
- rings, flashing lights, or blank spots
- dark or floating spots
- pain or pressure in one or both of your eyes
- trouble seeing things out of the corners of your eyes
Retina damage happens slowly. Your retinas have tiny blood vessels that are easy to damage. Having high blood glucose and high blood pressure for a long time can damage these tiny blood vessels. First, these tiny blood vessels swell and weaken. Some blood vessels then become clogged and do not let enough blood through. At first, you might not have any loss of sight from these changes.
The stages of diabetic retinopathy are divided into two categories, Nonproliferative Retinopathy and Proliferative Retinopathy.
The doctors at The Reeves Eye Institute will detect diabetic retinopathy through regular eye exams with their diabetic patients. In the earliest stages of diabetes, eye exams once or twice a year may be acceptable. The doctors will be specifically looking for the leaking blood vessels that can lead to more advanced levels of this eye disease. A dilated eye exam will be performed by your eye doctor and retinal photographic equipment may be used.