Ready or not, it’s that wonderful time of the year again! Along with the cooler weather and the festive colors and decorations, comes an abundance of delicious sweets and treats. Through our best efforts to resist the temptations; we may perhaps allow ourselves to occasionally overindulge. Although this may seem harmless and innocent enough; for someone suffering from diabetes, such indulgences may have the potential for drastic consequences to the overall health. Because of this, regular physical examinations with your primary care provider are encouraged, but those with diabetes should also consider annual eye examinations with their optometrist and eyecare team.
But wait; if you believe you have good eyesight and your eyes are not bothersome, you may be wondering why an appointment with your optometrist is relevant to the diabetes, especially for those that are well controlled. The answer is that many potential eye problems may develop without apparent discomfort or vision distortion. Ocular conditions such as glaucoma and cataract formation are more commonly known, however there is yet another condition that is less talked about, but has the potential for serious complications. This condition is known as diabetic retinopathy, and occurs more commonly in those with Type 1 diabetes but may develop in anyone suffering from diabetes.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) defines diabetic retinopathy as – “ a condition that causes progressive damage to the retina, the light sensitive lining at the back of the eye. …Over time, diabetes damages the small blood vessels throughout the body, including those in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when these tiny blood vessels leak blood and other fluids causing the retinal tissue to swell, resulting in cloudy or blurry vision. The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely they will develop diabetic retinopathy which has the potential to cause blindness if left untreated.”
In the United States, diabetes is the leading cause of vision loss to those under the age of 74. In 2017 alone, more than 400,000 reported cases of diabetic retinopathy were diagnosed by optometrist across the country, many in patients who were unaware that they even had the disease. During a comprehensive eye examination, the optometrist will instill drops to dilate your pupils which will aid the Doctor in obtaining a better visual examination of the retina. This process is especially important in that the eyes are the only location in the body that allows for a non-invasive visual of the blood vessels in their natural state supplying the optometrist opportunity to observe changes directly while offering invaluable information of the overall health of the patient.
As stated previously, diabetic retinopathy can develop in anyone with diabetes, and even more so to those that have suffered from the disease over long periods of time, particularly in those with poor control. However; there are other risk factors that may lead to progression of the ocular condition. Hispanics and African Americans have a greater genetic disposition for developing diabetic retinopathy, and those suffering from other medical conditions such as high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol (hyperlipidemia), and pregnancy may all increase the risk of developing the condition.
Our team here at Payson Eye Care Center are focused and dedicated to providing the best quality care for our patients. We practice full medical optometry including diagnosis, treatment, and management for all ocular diseases including diabetic retinopathy as well as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. We wish you the happiest of holidays and invite you to come stop in our office so we can share some of our own holiday cheer, and offer our services to help you with your ocular needs as well