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Diabetes and Your Eyes

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among working-age adults, but early diagnosis and treatment can preserve your vision.

Whether you’re newly diagnosed or have been managing Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes for a while, utilizing a team approach can provide the much-needed support to maintain your health.

As a part of your care team, your Doctor of Optometry plays a vital role in helping you preserve your sight. Your optometrist can examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases and disorders of the eye. In addition to providing eye and vision care, they play a major role in an individual’s overall health and well-being by detecting systemic diseases, like diabetes, and diagnosing, treating, and managing how those diseases affect the eyes. They can also provide feedback to your other doctors regarding how your diabetes may be affecting your vision.

Diabetic retinopathy

Because diabetes can contribute to eye disease, particularly diabetic retinopathy, the importance of in-person, dilated eye exams cannot be stressed enough. Diabetic retinopathy is a serious, sight-threatening complication of diabetes. Diabetes interferes with the body’s ability to use and store sugar (glucose). The disease is characterized by too much sugar in the blood, which can cause damage throughout the body, including the eyes. Over time, diabetes damages small blood vessels throughout the body, including the retina. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when these tiny blood vessels leak blood and other fluids. This causes the retinal tissue to swell, resulting in cloudy or blurred vision.

Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes. The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely they will develop diabetic retinopathy, and if left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause permanent blindness. Patients with diabetes who can better control their blood sugar levels will slow the onset and progression of diabetic retinopathy. The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that everyone with diabetes have a comprehensive dilated eye examination at least once a year. Early detection and treatment can limit the potential for significant vision loss from diabetic retinopathy.

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