You could be at risk for diabetic retinopathy even if you have not been diagnosed with diabetes by your doctor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in four diabetics in America do not know that they have the condition, and one in three have prediabetes, which is a condition characterized by elevated blood sugar that is not high enough to make a diagnosis of diabetes. Prediabetes may develop into diabetes if it is not treated.
Routine eye exams may detect changes in the eye, which could prompt testing for diabetes and aid in discovering the diabetes in its asymptomatic form. This is why it is important to get your eyes tested annually even if you have what appears to be "perfect vision."
Understanding Diabetic Retinopathy
This is a term that is designated for vision problems affecting the retina of people with diabetes. There are two main categories that these retinal defects fall under, and they are referred to as proliferative and nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy. The condition could exist in its early stages without any obvious signs in vision changes.
The proliferative category is considered more serious because of severe damage to blood vessels, hemorrhaging, retinal detachment, and scar tissue risks. Nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy may advance to the proliferative form of this condition, which is why diagnosis and treatment are important. The nonproliferative form of the condition is characterized by the swelling of capillaries and blocking of blood vessels. These changes in the eye range from mild to severe.
Anyone with diabetes is at risk for developing this eye condition. Research indicates that the longer a person has diabetes, the more susceptible they are to developing diabetic retinopathy, and being of black, Native American, or Hispanic descent also has been shown to increase risk. Unhealthy habits such as not managing blood sugar and smoking can further increase risk.
Diabetic retinopathy is confirmed by a comprehensive eye exam, which involves injecting patients with a special dye. The dye helps optometrists to see the blood vessels of the eye clearly. If bleeding or hemorrhaging are present behind the eye, it is indicative that diabetic retinopathy may be present.
The severity of the condition will determine the appropriate course of treatment. For example, if your optometrist discovers a mild case of diabetic retinopathy, they may choose not to utilize invasive treatment solutions such as laser surgery or ocular injections. Instead, they may monitor your condition for changes over time and implement these techniques as a last resort. Ensure you report vision changes even if they occur before your annual eye exam is due to be performed.
If you do not require invasive treatment, ensure that you live as healthy a lifestyle as possible to reduce the chances of your eyesight getting worse. Aim to keep sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels under control. This can be achieved by eating well-balanced, low-fat meals, testing blood sugar, exercising, and following your doctor's guidelines for optimal body weight. For further questions, contact an optometrist like Richards Charles A OD.