Diabetes is the leading cause of vision loss among adults age 20 – 64 in the United States, yet 90% of diabetes-related vision loss is preventable. It is important for diabetics to have information about diabetic eye disease and for them to have an annual dilated eye exam by an Ophthalmologist.
• Diabetic Retinopathy affects 28.5 percent of people age 40 and older living with diabetes. It occurs when the small blood vessels in the eye change by swelling, leaking fluid or closing off completely, blocking blood flow from reaching the retina. In its earliest stages, diabetic retinopathy does not have symptoms, but can lead to changes in the eye, such as macular edema, which is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes. Treatment for diabetic retinopathy and many of its related changes include laser surgery, medical injections and vitrectomy surgery in which blood and scar tissue caused by abnormal blood vessels is removed.
• A Cataract occurs when the eye’s lens becomes cloudy, causing vision to become blurry, cloudy or dim. While this happens in many people as they age, those with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts than their peers without diabetes. Mild cataracts may be treated with eyeglasses, but once the cataract is advanced, it will require cataract surgery, in which the natural cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens implant known as an intraocular lens or IOL.
• Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve and peripheral vision. The damage to the optic nerve is usually caused by elevated pressure in the eye. People with diabetes are also more likely to develop glaucoma, which rarely has any noticeable symptoms in its early stages. Glaucoma can be treated with medication such as prescription eye drops or with surgery, but will result in blindness if left untreated.
People with diabetes should get a dilated eye exam at the time of diagnosis and every year following.
Click the links below for more information and tips on preventing diabetes-related vision loss.
• Vision simulator that shows the impact of diabetic retinopathy
• Videos about dilated eye exams
• Tips to help prevent diabetes-related vision loss