Eye disease that is caused by diabetes is currently the number one cause of blindness and vision loss. Due to the increased risk in diabetic patients, doctors recommend that people over 30 with diabetes get an annual dilated eye exam. Diabetic patients under 30 should get this exam five years after they have been diagnosed.
Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that is caused by damage to the retina. Patients that have diabetes may also have experienced extended periods of time where their blood sugar was elevated. The high levels of blood sugar damage the retina’s walls which leave them susceptible to leaking. When fluid accumulates in the retina or macula, it causes vision loss.
To make these matters worse, the retina will be oxygen-depleted if prolonged high blood sugar levels are seen again. This causes the abnormal growth of new blood vessels. This condition is called neovascularization. This blood vessel type is weak and prone to leaking. As these blood vessels leak, they introduce blood into the eye. Excessive bleeding into the eye can cause blindness.
Diabetic patients who don't have a diabetic retinopathy diagnosis can be seen by their eye specialist once a year. For diabetic patients diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, the frequency of visits will be determined after a comprehensive eye exam and consultation with the doctor. If the retinal damage is extensive, your doctor may refer you to a retinal specialist for further management. Diabetes can also lead to other eye problems, such as cataracts and glaucoma so it is important to schedule regular comprehensive exams.