Diabetes is associated with several eye health issues including cataracts and glaucoma, but the most well known diabetic eye disease is known as Diabetic Retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that only affects diabetics. This serious sight-threatening eye disease occurs when the fragile vascular network that supplies the retina – the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that helps us see – begins to swell or leak. During the early stages of the disease, there may be no noticeable symptoms, so if you have diabetes it’s important to have your eyes checked by your optometrist at least once a year.
Once symptoms of diabetic retinopathy do develop, they can include dark or black spots in your visual field or blurry vision which can further worsen over time. These signs are a result of bleeding at the back of the eye, which prevents a clear image from being transmitted from the retina to the brain.
Whether you have type 1, type 2, or even just gestational, diabetes you are at high risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, resulting in permanent vision loss. The longer you have had diabetes, the greater the risk. It is essential to keep your blood sugar levels under control to prevent vision loss and this may require frequent consultations with your diabetic team, including your optometrist, dietician, general practitioner, endocrinologist and perhaps even an eye surgeon.
Treating diabetic retinopathy can include discussions on how your blood sugar levels affect your vision and the surgical options such as a vitrectomy, replacing the inner gel-like substance that supports the eyeball structure, used to prevent scarring and laser surgery.