Diabetes is a leading cause of vision damage and vision loss in the United States, and one that requires careful monitoring and early intervention. It is actually one of the leading PREVENTABLE causes of vision damage and loss! Keeping up diabetic eye care is consequently highly important. The first step in preventing diabetic eye disease is the same as the first step in preventing the other secondary problems that occur in diabetes…tight control of the blood sugar through proper diet, exercise and medications.
It was once thought that tight blood sugar control was actually harmful to the vision, this has been definitively disproven by recent research. The tighter the control of sugar, the less likely that eye disease will occur. The other aspect of prevention is much more simple. Patients who keep their regular eye appointments are much less likely to suffer vision damage from diabetes. Early detection is the key, and when a problem is found, treatment can be undertaken before significant harm to the retina occurs. Many doctors refer their patients to Dr. William Goldstein for evaluation and treatment of their diabetes. Dr. Goldstein has an argon laser in his office for their treatment, and has taken care of thousands of diabetic patients.
How does diabetes damage the eye?
Diabetes can cause many problems in the eye, but only two commonly encountered issues can cause irreversible damage. Cataracts, retinal swelling (macular edema) and growth of abnormal blood vessels (neovascularization) are the three common causes of decreased vision in diabetic patients.
- Cataracts Cataracts are clouding of the natural lens of the eye. Surgical correction is commonly performed and is extremely successful. More information about cataracts and cataract surgery is available on this site. When a cataract is removed, a lens implant is commonly inserted at the time of surgery to limit the need for glasses.
- Macular Edema Diabetic patients can develop leaky blood vessels near the center of vision, known as the macula. When this occurs, and threatens damage to the vision, laser treatment can be undertaken. The laser causes the eye to seal off the leaking veins, and the body clears the fluid to help resolve the edema. The sooner that this is undertaken, the less likely that permanent damage will occur.
- Neovascularization When new, abnormal blood vessels grow off of the normal veins in the eye, patients are said to have ‘Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy’. These vessels tend to be fragile, and likely to bleed into the eye and lead to scarring and eventually detachment of the retina. Laser therapy is very effective in this case as well, and early diagnosis and treatment are the key.