Keeping Your Eyes Healthy - Diabetic Retinopathy

Presented by Midwest Eye Consultants

Article by Dr. Kendra Cunegin, O.D.

Published in: Update - Issue 3 - 2017 »   
Illustration of a healthy eye next to an eye that has been affected by diabetic retinopathy. The healthy eye has small blood vessels at the back. The eye with diabetic retinopathy shows red fluid that has leaked out of the blood vessels into the eye

Diabetes affects approximately one out of every 11 people in the United States. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of every four people with the condition does not even know that they have it. This is because diabetes, along with its effects on the eyes, produces no symptoms at early stages.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body can no longer properly process food for energy. Due to this, glucose (the body’s form of cellular energy) builds up in the blood stream. The chronic build up of glucose in the bloodstream damages blood vessel walls thus restricting blood flow. This eventually damages organs, including the eyes.

Diabetic eye disease is a group of conditions that, in severe stages, can cause blindness. Risk factors include the duration that the person is diabetic, blood glucose control, other cardiovascular diseases and smoking. The most common type of diabetic eye disease is diabetic retinopathy.

An important study on diabetic retinopathy, the DCCT (Diabetes Control and Complications Trial), demonstrated the importance of controlling blood glucose in the prevention of diabetic eye disease. In this study, it was demonstrated that a decrease in the patient’s HbA1C by 10% was able to lessen the risk of diabetic retinopathy by approximately 44%.

Your primary care physician can give you the value of your HbA1C and instructions on how to keep this value inside normal range. In addition, routine eye examinations with your optometrist or ophthalmologist are vital for early detection and to allow prompt intervention which minimizes any impact on your vision.

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