November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month
Diabetes is a disease most people are familiar with since almost everyone knows someone who is diabetic. But the complications of diabetes are not as well-known. The first step in preventing or minimizing the effects of the disease is understanding what it is and what causes it.
What is Diabetic Eye Disease?
If you have diabetes, you may face several eye-related complications, which collectively are known as diabetic eye disease. It is very important to have your eyes checked regularly to screen for these four varieties. Early detection and treatment is the only way to ensure further complications do not occur. Untreated diabetic eye disease can lead to severe vision loss or blindness.
A cataract occurs when the eye’s naturally clear lens becomes cloudy, which stops light from passing through the lens the way it should. This causes your vision to become cloudy, blurry and/or distorted. Diabetes can speed the development of cataracts, or even cause early development of cataracts in young adults.
While not all types of glaucoma are caused by diabetes, having diabetes can increase your risk. Neovascular glaucoma is undisputedly linked to diabetes. Other types of glaucoma, like open-angle glaucoma, may or may not be linked to diabetes.
This is the most common issue for those with diabetic eye disease. It is characterized by changes to the blood vessels in the eyes that cause bleeding in the retina. This bleeding, or leakage of fluid, can significantly distort vision. Currently, Diabetic Retinopathy is the number one cause of blindness in the United States and is a condition that can be prevented and treated if managed correctly.
Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)
Diabetic macular edema is a complication of diabetic retinopathy. DME is fluid accumulating in the eye, specifically in the macula, which is the part of the retina that is responsible for your central vision and for a seeing high level of detail, specifically high-resolution color vision that is possible in a good light.
The Best Treatment is Prevention
While there are treatments available for diabetic retinopathy and DME, properly controlling your diabetes is the best way to prevent vision complications. Early detection is the best defense against all diabetic eye disease, as there are very few early indicators you could be suffering from one of these complications.
If complications occur that require treatment, treatments can include corticosteroids injected or implanted in the eye, drug injections designed to treat abnormal blood vessel growth, or laser surgery to slow or reduce leakage of blood vessels and reduce swelling in the retina.
There are many resources available for those who suffer from low vision due to complications from diabetic eye disease. In the end, the best treatment is prevention. If you suffer from diabetes, be sure to get regular vision screenings.