Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that only affects diabetics. It occurs when the fragile vascular network that supplies the retina – the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that helps us see – begins to swell or leak. During the beginning stages of the disease, there may be no noticeable symptoms, so it’s important to have your eyes checked at least once a year, if you have diabetes.
Once symptoms of diabetic retinopathy do develop, they can include: dark or black spots in your visual field, or blurry vision, and it increases over time. This is a result of bleeding at the back of the eye, which prevents a clear image from being transmitted from the retina to the brain.
Whether you have type 1, type 2, or even just gestational diabetes, you are at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy. The longer you have had the disease, the greater the risk. It is essential to keep your blood sugar levels under control to prevent vision loss, and this may require a trip back to your primary care physician.
Treating diabetic retinopathy can include vitrectomy, replacing the inner gel-like substance that supports the eyeball structure, and laser surgery.
For Diabetic sufferers, an annual diabetic eye exam is usually done before going in for your annual medical check up. Your health management team will want to have the results of your eye exam in front of them when they do their physical examination in order to see the whole picture, thus it is normal for most diabetics to book their diabetic eye exam prior to their annual check-up. In most cases this means having an eye exam early in the year- from January to March.
The diabetic eye exam is a series of tests that are designed to screen for eye disease in general, and retinopathy and glaucoma in particular. It is important to have your first eye exam soon after you are diagnosed with diabetes and you should make sure to have annual exams to monitor your condition and to ensure that treatment is started as soon as trouble is detected.
Early detection and treatment can help to save your vision when you suffer from diabetes.