The National Eye Institute defines Diabetic Eye Disease as two conditions that affect the eyes of people with diabetes. both are defined below.
- Diabetic Retinopathy – This is caused by high blood sugar that damages tiny blood vessels in the retina. The retina’s job is to detect light and send signals through the optic nerve to the brain. High blood sugar damages the blood vessels causing hemorrhaging (bleeding) which blurs vision. If gone unchecked new, abnormal blood vessels form on the retina and can lead to scarring and loss in the retina.
- Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) – the Macula (part of the Retina) provides sharp, straight-ahead vision that is used for reading, recognition, and driving. When this is damaged due to high blood glucose, fluid builds up in the Macula, causing vision loss. About half of the people with diabetes have this problem.
What are the symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy and DME?
There are no symptoms of either disease other than blurred or loss of vision. If not treated immediately, the risk of permanent loss of vision increases greatly.
How can the disease be detected?
Your eye doctor can perform a series of tests to determine whether someone with diabetes has Diabetic Retinopathy or DME (see the National Eye Institute website for more detailed information on tests). The results of the tests can determine changes in blood vessels, leaking, swelling, changes in the lens, and damage to the nerve tissue.
What can you do to prevent Diabetic Retinopathy?
Damage to the eyes due to diabetes can sometimes be reversed if caught early and reduce the risk of blindness by 95 percent. People with diabetes can prevent eye damage by doing two things:
- Control your diabetes. Controlling glucose levels slows the onset of Diabetic Retinopathy. Research shows that people who keep glucose levels close to normal are less likely to develop this disease.
- See your eye doctor two to three times a year. Early detection means there is a better chance of prevention. Only your eye doctor can determine through examination if you have Diabetic Retinopathy or DME.
For more information go to https://nei.nih.gov/health/diabetic/retinopathy.