DIABETES AWARENESS MONTH
November is Diabetes Awareness Month. If you are one of the estimated 29.1 million people that have diabetes, then you have most likely discussed with your doctor about possible health-related issues that come with the disease. Diabetes also can also harm your eyesight. Obtaining regular screenings will allow you to monitor your health and react to any changes that may have occurred.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (and the American Diabetes Association) recommend patients with type 1 diabetes receive an eye exam within the first 5 years after diagnosis, then one exam per year. The groups recommend those with type 2 diabetes receive an eye exam as soon as diabetes is diagnosed, and then once yearly.
All people with diabetes are at risk of developing eye disease that can permanently damage their vision and even lead to blindness. However, some steps can be taken to help prevent diabetic eye disease, including:
- Managing good blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol control
- Scheduling a yearly comprehensive dilated eye exam
- Women with diabetes before pregnancy should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam early in their pregnancy. Additional exams may be recommended during pregnancy.
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly, not smoking and following a healthy diet.
While everyone needs to schedule routine eye exams, people with diabetes need to be especially vigilant in scheduling their annual exams. Diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, and retinopathy are best treated when they are detected early and are often associated with diabetes. Talk to your eye doctor about any concerns or vision loss you may be experiencing for the best chances of early detection and treatment.
Patients often ask, “Why do I have to have my eyes dilated?” A comprehensive dilated eye exam allows our doctors to check the retina for early signs of diabetic eye disease damage such as:
- Warning signs of leaky blood vessels, such as fatty deposits
- Changes to blood vessels
- Changes in the lens
- Swelling of the macula
- Damage to nerve tissue
Glaucoma occurs when pressure builds inside the eye and is 40% more likely to occur in individuals who have diabetes. The pressure pinches blood vessels that carry blood to the retina and optic nerve. Vision is gradually lost as the retina and nerves are damaged from the increase in pressure. There are several treatments available for Glaucoma however some treatments may require surgery. Early detection of high pressure may be able to be managed by medication. Maintaining the proper eye pressure is key to preventing permanent damage to the eye.
As we age many people run a higher risk of developing cataracts. Those with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop them. By detecting cataracts early you can help to slow down the progression. The typical corrective action for cataracts is to remove the lens of the eye. Patients then would typically receive a new transplanted lens. In people with diabetes, vision can get worse after the removal of the lens and glaucoma may start to develop so additional treatment may be necessary.
Retinopathy is a general term used for all disorders of the retina that are caused by diabetes. The good news that there have been giant strides in the past decade on treatment for retinopathy.
Have you noticed a pattern? Particularly those with diabetes must be extra vigilant with screenings and health checkups. The key to being able to keep your vision as clear as possible when you suffer from diabetes is early detection. Keep in mind that you often can lose more than 60% of your vision before you begin to notice significant differences.
Talk with your doctor if you have diabetes so you know what symptoms to look for and schedule your annual vision screening.
About Bissell Eye Care: John D. Bissell, OD owns and operates Bissell Eye Care servicing Northern Pittsburgh and Alle-Kiski Valley regions. With two locations to treat patients, we offer evening and Saturday appointments. Bissell Eye Care provides comprehensive eye examinations for the entire family beginning as early as 6 months, ocular disease detection and treatment, eyeglasses, sunglasses, activewear, contact lenses, and low vision examinations for those with significant vision loss. We accept most types of vision and health insurance plans. For more information, visit bisselleyecare.com or call our Bakerstown Office at 724-443-6767 or Natrona Heights office at 724-226-0444.