One of the least-discussed (but most important) health factors for diabetics relates to vision: there are eye diseases which only affect diabetics, and if left untreated they can lead to permanent blindness.
Diabetic eye exams perform all of the usual tests and assessments performed during a comprehensive eye exam, but then go into more depth regarding diabetes-specific diseases. Diabetic retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) both leave tell-tale signs of their presence even before presenting any symptoms; this is what we look for during your exam.
Since both diseases can cause permanent vision impairment, early recognition is critical to maximise vision retention.
The illness is split into two different types: proliferative and nonproliferative.
This is the milder form of the disease and can be gauged as mild, moderate or severe. The blood vessels of the retina weaken over time and can rupture, bleeding and leaking into the eyeball. These fluids can obscure your vision and, if left untreated, may accumulate and cause significant vision impairment.
Accounting for around 10% of cases, this is much more severe. The blood vessels around the eye can die off, and new weaker vessels are grown in their place. These new blood vessels are much more prone to bleeding and leakage, and can also cause retinal detachments.
This condition is an offshoot of diabetic retinopathy and affects roughly 50% of patients. It’s just like nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy, except the fluids leak into the macula and can severely affect central vision.
There is currently no cure to diabetic retinopathy, however photocoagulation (aka laser treatment) can be used to target weak blood cells and seal them shut. This aims to prevent more fluids leaking into the eye and help you retain as much sight as possible. DME has a few more options for treatment with laser therapy and anti-VEGF injections, but these should be discussed at length with one of our optometrists.
If your vision does become severely compromised, you may be diagnosed with low vision. In this case we can discuss visual aids and other means to adapting to your worsened visual acuity, and help you lead your life as “normally” as possible.