Diabetes is one of the most common chronic health conditions with an estimated 130 million adults (2022 estimate) currently living with diabetes or pre-diabetes in the United States. This metabolic disorder occurs when the body is no longer able to regulate its own blood sugar level and requires intervention to help keep blood sugar stable. Most people are aware that diabetes can have serious consequences for our health. However, you may be surprised to learn that it can also influence our vision. This is because patients who are diabetic can go on to develop a complication known as diabetic retinopathy. Without prompt treatment, diabetic retinopathy can cause permanent vision loss. Dr. Cole and Dr. Dodd recommend yearly dilated eye examinations for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes. If you have diabetic retinopathy, you will likely need to be seen more frequently.
To see clearly, our eyes need to be healthy and functioning perfectly. One of the most important parts of our eyes is the retina. Found at the very back of the eye, the retina contains light-sensitive cells that have the job of converting the light that passes into the eye into messages that are passed to our brain. Our brain receives this information and tells us what we can see and how clearly we see it.
The retina relies on a continuous supply of blood, which is delivered via a network of tiny blood vessels. Over time, continuously high blood sugar or large fluctuations in blood sugar can damage these blood vessels causing a leak of blood and other fluids onto the retina. If this happens, swelling and scarring may occur which can permanently compromise the quality of your vision.
Technically, anyone who suffers from diabetes, whether it be Type 1 or Type 2, could be at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. However, the condition is more likely in certain situations. These include if:
your blood sugar levels are uncontrolled or poorly controlled
you have a long history of diabetes
you have high blood pressure (hypertension)
you suffer from high cholesterol
you are pregnant
Regular diabetic-related eye exams will enable Dr. Cole and Dr. Dodd to monitor your condition and ensure that any signs of diabetic retinopathy are detected and acted upon immediately.
Always prepare to have your eyes dilated when you are being seen for a diabetic eye examination. Bring sunglasses with you and a driver if you feel uncomfortable driving with your eyes dilated. In addition to the dilation, retinal imaging using our Optos Ultra-Wide Field imaging device will be recommended. This gives us a snapshot of the internal structures of the eyes and provides a way to monitor and compare findings over time. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) of the macula will likely also be recommended to image the retina to obtain a side few of the retina to analyze for diabetic macular edema (swelling of the most critical area of your retina).
The comprehensive information we obtain from your examination will help us determine if you have diabetic retinopathy. If so, we will discuss the best way to get your condition under control for optimum eye health. This could involve a combination of elements, including more effective diabetes management, medications, or more involved treatment in order to preserve your vision. Dr. Cole or Dr. Dodd will give you more specific information based on your individual circumstances.
If you are diabetic and have not had a dilated retinal examination, retinal imaging, or OCT testing in the last year, please call our office at 360-449-3937 to schedule an appointment.