November is National Diabetes Month. November is also Diabetic Eye Disease Month and the National Eye Institute wants to raise awareness about diabetic eye disease. During National Diabetes Month, the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) will spread the word about how people with diabetes can protect their vision. Diabetic eye disease is a leading cause of blindness and unfortunately has no early warning signs. Only a proper dilated eye exam by an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) can detect diabetic eye disease in its early stages, when it is still treatable and blindness can be prevented. This is why it is so crucial for diabetics to undergo routine comprehensive eye exams.
Early Detection by a Dilated Eye Exam can Prevent Vision Loss
Early detection by a dilated eye exam, treatment in time and appropriate follow-up care are the main ways to prevent vision loss. In fact, when detected early, diabetic eye disease treatment is 95% effective in preventing blindness.
Dilated Eye Exam
The doctor puts drops in the eyes to dilate the pupils so that he can see the retina of the eye and the optic nerve. This is a painless test and diabetics and all seniors over age 65 should go once a year for this exam. If you begin to have any kind of vision problems go immediately to an eye doctor and do not wait until the yearly test is due. Your doctor will also test the pressure in your eyes to make sure you do not have glaucoma and will check for cataracts, Glaucoma is not limited to diabetics, but diabetes doubles the risk to contract glaucoma. Also, diabetics are 2-5 times more likely to develop cataracts than people without diabetes and can also develop cataracts earlier than non-diabetics.
Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that affects people with any type of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 or gestational. In fact, according to the NEI, more than two in five Americans with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy. Many do not even know they have it, as it is a silent disease without early warning symptoms. Diabetic retinopathy is a progressive disease that affects the blood vessels of the retina of the eye. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by chronically high sugar in the blood from diabetes that damages tiny blood vessels in the retina. This can lead to bleeding in the blood vessels of the retina. As it progresses, new abnormal blood vessels can form on the surface of the retina. This leads to scarring and the loss of cells in the retina. This can cause vision problems, which if untreated, can progress to full blindness. It is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and a leading cause of blindness among adults of working age. See our blog post from January 15, 2019 about how diet soda may contribute to the development of diabetic eye disease.
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
- Blurred vision
- Floating spots in vision
Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) is Caused by Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic macular edema (DME) is caused by diabetic retinopathy.
Diaabetic Retinopathy causes fluid to build up and cause swelling in a part of the retina called the macula. DME is the most common cause for vision loss in diabetics who have diabetic retinopathy. DME can happen at any stage of diabetic retinopathy, but the risks increase as diabetic retinopathy gets worse.
Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)
Treatment will not undo damage to the eyes caused by diabetic retinopathy and DME, but treatment will prevent vision from getting worse.
- Get glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol under control
- Injections of anti-VEGF drugs can slow down or reverse diabetic retinopathy
- Corticosteroid drugs
- Laser treatment to shrink blood vessels and prevent leaking
- Eye surgery called a vitrectomy
Short or Long-term Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Care
If you or your loved one are due to go to a short or long-term rehab make sure to first have a dilated eye exam, whether or not you have diabetes. In fact, eye problems can make many other problems worse. For instance, people with memory loss who cannot see properly will have even more problems remembering people if their vision is blurred. Some people with dementia really also cannot see well and this vision problem often gets overlooked. Also, if your loved one is already in a skilled long-term nursing care facility make sure they still get their yearly dilated eye exam.
Park Crescent Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in East Orange, New Jersey
The Park Crescent Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in East Orange, New Jersey specializes in diabetes monitoring and care. Your diabetic loved one will be in the best of hands 24 hours a day. Also, Park Crescent Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center is known far and wide for their expertise in complex wound care, especially for the kind of wounds that are so common to people suffering from diabetes.
Since diabetic eye diseases can be prevented 95% from deteriorating into blindness by early detection from a yearly dilated eye exam, every senior, whether or not they have diabetes should go for this painless yearly examination. The yearly eye exam is important because aging also increases the risk for cataracts and glaucoma which can also lead to vision loss. Diabetics are at higher risk.