Diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide. Diabetic eye disease is comprised of a group of conditions that affect people with diabetes:
- Diabetic Retinopathy – This is a condition that affects the blood vessels in the retina, at the back of the eye. It is the most common cause of blindness among those with diabetes.
- Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) – The second stage, after diabetic retinopathy, DME is the swelling in the macula area of the retina.
Signs and Symptoms
The early stages of diabetic eye disease can often have no symptoms which poses a problem for catching and attempting to reverse any degeneration of vision. For those who are suffering from diabetes, even those who are unaware the disease is present, it is important to watch out for these signs and symptoms:
- Rapid shifts in blood sugar levels can cause vision to become blurry. This can be mild to severe shifts and often dissipate when blood sugar levels are normalized.
- Blurred or hazy vision at night.
- Experiencing glare from lights such as oncoming traffic.
- The appearance of ‘floating spots’ in the eye which is caused by bleeding from abnormal blood vessels.
Steps for Detection
Various steps are taken to detect diabetic retinopathy and DME during a dilated eye exam. These steps include:
- An eye chart test to measure your ability to see distance
- A test to measure the pressure in your eye, called a Tonometry.
- An examination of the retina through your dilated pupil. Eye drops are administered.
- Images are captured of the tissues inside the eye using Optical coherence tomography (OCT)
Your retina will be examined for changes in blood vessels such as leaking, or the warning signs of leaking, which include fatty deposits in the eye; swelling of the macula; lens (cornea) changes; any damage of the nerve tissue.
Early detection and treatment can be the key factor in maintaining your vision while battling diabetes. Because symptoms are either hard to identify, or lack presence until the condition is irreversible, it is important that yearly dilated eye exams are performed by your optometrist.