Patients with diabetes are at risk for diabetic eye disease, which can include diabetic retinopathy, both non-proliferative and proliferative types, diabetic macular edema (DME), and rapid cataract progression. If you have diabetes, it is very important to have a yearly eye exam because the early stages of diabetic retinopathy usually have no visual symptoms but are a strong predictor of how advanced your diabetes may be. However, early detection, aggressive monitoring, and individualized treatment can reduce your risk of permanent vision loss by 95 percent, according to the National Eye Institute.
Here are the reasons why staying on top of your eye health if you have diabetes is crucial for keeping your vision clear.
Preventing diabetic eye disease
A fundoscopic eye exam, which involves dilating your eyes and closely evaluating the retina, is the first step to screening for diabetic changes in your eye. Mild changes can be monitored, while moderate and severe changes may require treatment including injections and/or laser therapy. Up to 20 percent of patients who get diagnosed with diabetes can have retinopathy at the time of their diagnosis. Having a dilated retinal exam is a great first step to gauge the health of your eyes and avoid serious problems in the future.
“I strongly encourage patients with diabetes to get an annual eye exam,” Dr. Mehul Patel, a UCF Health ophthalmologist said. “That way we can catch any issues early and preserve your vision.”
Detecting other vision problems
Patients with diabetes are twice as likely to develop vision problems, such as cataract and refractive changes. Visiting your eye doctor can help detect these issues early on so that you can take the appropriate steps to treatment.
Cataract, which is clouding of the natural lens inside your eye, is a normal change that occurs as you grow older. However, patients with diabetes develop these changes faster and often don’t realize how much it is hindering their lives. Ophthalmologists may remove the cataract early on and help to restore your vision clarity. Your eye surgeon will be able to discuss your treatment options in depth once a dilated eye exam is completed.
Another often less discussed change from uncontrolled blood sugars is the change in one’s refraction (glasses prescription) due to fluctuating sugar levels. This can be significantly distressing to patients who seem to do well with their glasses one day and have trouble with the same glasses on other days. An eye exam can bring this often underlying change to light.
Practicing good eye health
Your ophthalmologist will provide you with tips for practicing good eye health, such as preservative-free artificial tears for lubrication, assessment of your lens and retina and updating prescription glasses as needed. Visiting the eye doctor regularly will equip you with the tools and knowledge to stop any vision problems in their tracks.
As a diabetic patient, your eye doctor is an important part of your care team who can work with you on a personal level to ensure the very best care for your eyes.
Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at UCFHealth.com, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.
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- diabetes diabetic eye eye disease eye exams eye health vision vision problems