Although diabetes is an endocrine disorder, its effects can reach nearly every system and organ in the body. The eye is 1 of these affected organs; damage to the eyes and vision loss can result from uncontrolled diabetes. The experts at Ford Eye Center in Arlington and Mansfield, Texas, work with diabetic patients to protect and preserve their vision.
Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of ophthalmic diseases that can result as a complication of diabetes including diabetic retinopathy, cataract, and glaucoma. Both glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy can result in vision loss or even blindness if left untreated.
Most patients don’t experience symptoms during early stage diabetic retinopathy. For this reason, annual dilated eye exams are critical in detecting and stopping the progression of these debilitating diseases in diabetics. When symptoms are present, they fall into various categories of vision loss.
Optometrists and ophthalmologists use a variety of diseases to screen patients for diabetic eye disease. One of the most insightful tests is a dilated eye exam, in which the pupil is dilated, allowing the doctor to examine the inside of the patient’s eye. This screening is quick and painless and a normal component of a comprehensive eye exam.
Diabetic retinopathy is treated with laser surgery. Although the procedure won’t restore lost vision, it can significantly reduce the risk of going blind. Cataracts are treated by surgically removing the clouded natural lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. Glaucoma can be treated with medications or surgery.
Diabetic patients should ensure that they see their eye doctor at least once per year. Because blindness is a real risk of diabetic retinopathy and the disease doesn’t have symptoms during its earliest phases, periodic eye exams are critical in preserving vision for diabetics.
Patients with well-controlled diabetes are less likely to develop the disease than brittle diabetics or patients with uncontrolled diabetes. Diabetics can reduce their risk of diabetic eye disease and consequential vision loss by maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, staying physically active, and consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
Patient prognosis is very individualized based on the state of progression of the disease and the patient’s overall health condition. Many diabetics can preserve their vision by scheduling annual appointments with their eye doctor and making healthy lifestyle choices. When diabetic eye disease remains undiagnosed for an extended period, prognosis declines.