What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that affects your blood glucose or blood sugar levels. Glucose is formed by our body through the food we eat. The body naturally regulates the amount of glucose in our body by producing a hormone called Insulin. Diabetes occurs when your body does not produce enough Insulin or your body can not use the Insulin it has correctly. Diabetes can affect many organs of the body including the heart, kidneys, and even your eyes. Diabetes is among the top ten leading causes of death in the United States.
How does Diabetes affect my eyes?
Diabetes typically affects two parts of your eye, the retina and the macula. When your blood sugar levels are either consistently high or have large spikes, it can cause bleeding in the back of the eye in the retina. Diabetes can also cause a plasma residue called Exudates to occur in the retina and in some cases, if there is a lack of oxygen to the retina, there can be something called a Cotton Wool Spot. These retinal changes are referred to as Diabetic Retinopathy.
In some cases bleeding or Exudates occurs close enough to the Macula, the center of your eye, that it can cause Diabetic Macular Edema. Diabetic Macular Edema is when fluid builds up in the macula and causes vision changes. If this fluid is not treated it can lead to vision lose and blindness.
What can be done if I have Diabetic Retinopathy?
If you only have mild/moderate levels of Diabetic Retinopathy and you are able to control your blood sugar your retina can absorb and heal like a bruise on your body can heal. If you have Moderate/Severe Diabetic Retinopathy and/or Diabetic Macular Edema, there are a few different treatment options available today. The most common form of treatment is to treat the affected area with laser to stop the bleeding and stop the signal to that area of the retina to call for more oxygen by destroying the tissue. The other form of treatment is to inject the eye with different medications that can decrease the fluid in the macula without having to destroy the tissue. Your doctor will review each case individually to determine the best treatment option for each patient.
What can I do to prevent Diabetic Retinopathy in my eyes?
Following the guidelines of a healthy body, exercise, and medication from your Primary Care Doctor or Endocrinologist will give you the best chance to control your blood sugar. The only way to know if you have any damage to your eyes from Diabetes is to have a Dilated Fundus Examination. Depending upon your risk and level of Diabetes, it is recommended to have at least one Dilated Fundus Exam a year. If you have Diabetes and need an eye exam, please call 860-233-2020 and schedule your exam today!