November is National Diabetes Month. Did you know that people with all types of diabetes (type 1, type 2, and gestational) are at risk for eye diseases? These conditions can include diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma. If left unchecked, these diseases can cause severe vision loss and blindness.
Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema
McFarland Clinic ophthalmologist Dr. Tracy Kangas says that high blood sugar from diabetes can cause damage to tiny blood vessels in the retina of the eye, which can lead to diabetic retinopathy.
"It can make the blood vessels in the retina leaky, or it can even close off the blood vessels," Dr. Kangas says.
Severe retinopathy can lead to diabetic macular edema (DME), which decreases central vision.
"You have fluid in the eye that's not supposed to be there," says Dr. Kangas. "It feels like you're looking through water, because you are."
Preventing and Treating Vision Loss
The good news is that diabetic eye diseases can be detected and treated with regular visits to an ophthalmologist.
"If we can see diabetic patients before they have significant retinal damage, we can prevent visual loss in 95 percent of people," says Dr. Kangas.
Before treating diabetic eye diseases, it important to treat the systemic problems of diabetes. Patients and their providers can work together to reduce blood sugar and blood pressure. Dr. Kangas also advises that diabetic patients who smoke should cease doing so.
After the systemic problems of diabetes have been addressed, there are three types of treatments for diabetic retinopathy:
- Laser surgery
- Injection of medicine
- Vitrectomy: Surgical removal of blood from the vitreous gel in the eye. This treatment is not common for diabetic patients.
Dr. Kangas says that in most cases she can administer treatment for a patient diabetic retinopathy on the same day they are diagnosed.
"If we can see them, diagnose them and treat them in the same day, it's a little easier for them to go back to their homes and know they don't need to see me for several months."
For more information about diabetic eye diseases and how they are treated, call a McFarland Eye Center near you.
- Duff Avenue, Ames - 515-239-4460
- West Ames - 515-663-4888
- Boone - 515-432-2020
- Marshalltown - 641-753-5585
- Nevada - 515-382-4626
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