Putting Diabetes in Focus
Patients suffering from diabetes are at high risk when it comes to severe vision loss or even blindness.
Pikeville Medical Center Ophthalmologist Dr. Jody Brown said those diagnosed with diabetes should get an eye examination on a yearly basis.
Dr. Brown said that diabetic eye disease “is a general term for the visual complications that result from diabetes.”
The most common diabetic eye disease among patients is diabetic retinopathy. This disease is a leading cause of blindness in adults. It is caused by changes in blood vessels of the retina.
“What people with diabetes need to understand is the importance of making sure they get their eyes checked on a regular basis,” Dr. Brown added.
Some patients suffering from diabetic retinopathy experience retinal blood vessels that leak fluid. In others, new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. These changes may result in vision loss.
Anyone with diabetes is at risk.
Dr. Brown said the longer someone suffers from diabetes, the more likely their chances are of getting diabetic retinopathy.
“Anyone who is suffering from this disease needs to have it treated as quickly as possible,” Brown said.
Nearly half of all people who suffer from diabetes will develop some form of diabetic retinopathy at some point in their life. You could be suffering from the disease without even knowing about it, Dr. Brown said. There aren’t any symptoms at first.
“Your vision is not affected at first and the disease is usually painless in patients,” he said. When the disease progresses in diabetics, the macula, the part of the retina that provides sharp, central vision, swells from leaking fluid. This condition is called macular edema and can cause blurred vision.
Dr. Brown noted that if new blood vessels have grown on the surface of the retina, they can bleed into the eye, blocking vision.
“People may not realize that the disease can progress over a long period of time without any symptoms. So, it’s important to make sure you keep your yearly appointment,” he explained.
How is the disease detected?
Physicians are able to detect the problem through an examination.
Professionals, such as Dr. Brown, can use eye drops to dilate, or enlarge the pupils. Physicians may also use a non-mydriatic retinal camera.
This instrument can see the retina without the bother of using eye drops.
Dr. Brown added that the disease can be treated if diagnosed in time. “Patients who are seen by a physician on a regular basis have a better success ratio when it comes to treatment.”
Laser surgery has been proven to reduce the risk of severe vision loss from diabetic retinopathy by 90 percent.
Dr. Brown encourages diabetic patients to take proper steps to lessen their chances of the disease becoming serious.
“It’s important for patients to control their blood sugar levels,” he said. “This will help patients to avoid eyevision loss as well as damage to their kidneys or even the nerves in their body.”
Dr. Brown said a dilated eye exam at least once a year is recommended for anyone who suffers from diabetes.
For more information, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Brown, please call (606) 218-1000.