The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that over 30 million Americans have diabetes. An additional 84.1 million have prediabetes, which if left untreated, can lead to type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in the United States and should be taken seriously when it comes to your vision.
Diabetic retinopathy is a retinal disease that affects people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. High blood sugar levels damage blood vessels in the eye. This damage can cause a variety of vision problems and eventually lead to blindness.
There are two stages of diabetic retinopathy:
People with diabetic retinopathy often don’t notice symptoms early in the disease. Diabetic retinopathy typically starts with blurry vision. Eventually, some of the following symptoms may appear, as well:
Vision loss from diabetic retinopathy is in many cases irreversible, but it can be prevented. It’s much better to catch it sooner than later.
The first step in preventing vision loss from diabetic retinopathy is to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and blood pressure. In some cases, vision can even improve in patients with diabetic retinopathy who take steps to control their blood sugar. However, in some cases, controlling your blood sugar is not enough and you may still be at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy. In these cases, it is important to have yearly eye examinations so that if diabetic retinopathy is present, it can be caught and treated before irreparable damage occurs.
Advanced treatment options may include:
Although controlling your blood sugar is important, a study found that healthy glycemic control was not enough to prevent diabetic retinopathy in all cases. The only guarantee to preventing vision loss from diabetic retinopathy is to have yearly comprehensive eye exams after being diagnosed with diabetes. In a dilated eye exam, an eye doctor can see into the back of your eye and look for signs of damaged blood vessels or swelling in the retina, allowing you to take action early. The best way to maintain your healthy vision is through preventative care.
Dr. McNeely is a primary care optometrist with the Marietta Eye Clinic who offers primary care optometry. She also specializes in ocular disease and ocular surgery co-management. Dr. McNeely serves the Kennestone, Canton, and East Cobb locations. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Georgia and received her doctor of optometry degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry. While graduating from the School of Optometry, she was named class valedictorian. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry as well as a member of the Georgia Optometric Association and the American Optometric Association. Read more about Dr. McNeely here.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. It describes itself as a “global community of 32,000 medical doctors who protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public.” Its website is a great resource to learn more about how to care for your eyes.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) describes itself as the leading authority on quality care and an advocate for our nation’s health, representing more than 44,000 doctors of optometry (O.D.), optometric professionals, and optometry students.
Annual Eye Exams Can Save Sight for People with Diabetes
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
New CDC report: More than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes
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