November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month — a good reminder that diabetic patients should have dilated eye exams every year.
Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among working-age Americans. It also is a risk factor for developing glaucoma and cataracts. However, the most common and debilitating vision problem for diabetics is diabetic retinopathy. It is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue of the retina. At first, diabetic retinopathy may cause no symptoms or only mild vision problems. Eventually, it can cause blindness. The condition can develop in anyone who has type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to develop this eye complication.
An eye exam can even detect early signs of diabetes. One indicator is the small blood vessels in your retina.
Our ophthalmologists are able to view these blood vessel issues when they dilate your eyes. Over time, too much sugar in your blood can lead to the blockage of the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina, cutting off its blood supply. As a result, the eye attempts to grow new blood vessels. But these new blood vessels don’t develop properly and can leak easily. This shows up in the eye exam.