November is National Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness month, which is a great time for diabetics (and anyone else with vision concerns) to schedule an appointment with their eye doctor. It's also a good time for seniors who have a long-term or new diabetes diagnosis to learn more about how their condition may impact their eyes. Here are four things you should know about diabetic eye health.
1. Diabetics are at risk for diabetic retinopathy.
This condition can cause blood vessels in your eye to leak, which distorts vision. Diabetic retinopathy typically progresses in stages, with each stage causing more potential damage to the retina and, thus, your vision. Symptoms, which may be mild at first, can include spots or strings in your field of vision (these are commonly referred to as floaters), blurry vision, issues with seeing color and dark spots or losses of vision in certain areas. In the most severe cases, diabetic retinopathy can lead to a total loss of vision.
2. Diabetic macular edema occurs in 50 percent of people with diabetic retinopathy.
While DME can occur at any stage of retinopathy, it more often occurs at later stages. It can effect people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
3. You can take action to prevent diabetic retinopathy.
Staying as healthy as possible can help you reduce the chances of diabetic retinopathy. Working with your medical provider to manage all of your diabetic symptoms, including your blood sugar, is critical. Medical professionals believe long-term high blood sugar is one element that leads to diabetic retinopathy.
Other ways you can help protect your vision as a diabetic include:
4. Both diabetic retinopathy and DME can be treated.
DME is treated with a variety of options, including injections or implantation of corticosteroids into the eye, injections of other types of medications to block proteins that encourage abnormal blood vessel growth and laser surgery to correct issues in the eye.
Laser surgery may also be used to treat diabetic retinopathy, and in some cases, the vitreous gel within the eye can be surgically removed to correct severe bleeding in the eye.
No matter where you are in your diabetic journey — or even if you aren't diabetic — now is a great time to begin paying attention to your overall vision health. You can protect your eyes every day by taking small steps such as wearing sunglasses or a hat to keep harmful UV rays away and taking breaks from screen time, which can include working with computers and tablets and watching television.
Remember to get your eyes checked annually and talk to the Bethesda Gardens staff if you have any questions or concerns about issues related to eye health, such as blood pressure. The on-site medical staff can help you keep track of those numbers and develop healthy habits to maintain them.