Lose of sight is a common concern for people as they age, however ophthalmologists remind people that aging should not be the only concern. Having diabetes is a significant risk factor for developing eye diseases, and ophthalmologists say vision should be priority for diabetics, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
To raise awareness about these risks during National Diabetes Month, the AAO is asking the 29 million American with diabetes to recognize their greater chances of having eye problems, like diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts. Diabetic retinopathy is the No. 1 cause of vision loss for working age Americans, according to the National Eye Institute. More than 15 million Americans will be affected by 2050.
Ophthalmologists suggest a dilated eye exam can be the best first-line defense against loss of vision because of diabetic eye disease, according to AAO. Read the following tips about preventing and detecting diabetic eye disease.
- Early detection is key
“It’s very important for all people with diabetes to know that diabetes can affect their eyes,” said ophthalmologist Purnima S. Patel M.D. Diabetes affects the body by causing damage to small blood vessels. The back of the eye contains some of the smallest blood vessels that can bleed or leak fluid causing a decrease in vision or even blindness. Dr. Patel explains this is diabetic retinopathy. If this is detected early, there are ways to control it and prevent vision loss.
- Comprehensive eye exam can detect diabetic eye disease
A comprehensive eye exam includes a dilated retinal exam with special microscopes and lenses is a diabetic retinopathy exam, according to retinal specialist Abdhish R. Bhavsar, M.D. An ophthalmologist would only need specialized instruments to see the retina in great detail. “The retina at the back of the eye is like the film in a camera, and it makes the picture and sends the signal to the brain,” he said.
- The kind of diabetes you have determines what kind of diabetic eye exam you need
Adults with type 2 diabetes should have a comprehensive eye exam with dilation as soon as they are diagnosed and then at yearly intervals. Anyone with type 1 diabetes should have a dilated eye exam five years after being diagnosed and then at yearly intervals, according to ophthalmologist Gary Hirshfield, M.D.