In Diabetes your eyes need extra care
How often you need your vision checked will depend on your health, family history and symptoms, but people with Diabetes are recommended to do so if:
- They are under 30 years and have had diabetes for 5 years or more, they should get a comprehensive eye exam once a year. This helps detect Retinopathy in time.
- They are over 30 years of age, they should get a thorough eye examination once a year no matter how long they’ve had Diabetes.
Although Diabetic Retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness and is the biggest eye problem for people with Diabetes, there are other eye diseases related to inadequate Diabetes control. Furthermore, time also plays an important role when considering ophthalmologist checkups.
Some of these diseases are:
People with diabetes are particularly susceptible to cataracts, which occur when the lens changes color affecting clarity, however, the presence of cataracts isn’t necessarily cause for alarm. Many people grow old with cataracts while maintaining good vision. Some cataracts take years to cause vision impairment and in some cases changing prescription lenses is enough. However, in people with Diabetes cataracts are usually treated with surgery. The success rate for cataract surgery is of more than 95%. In this process the lens is removed and is replaced with a plastic lens (intraocular lens). Cataract surgery is rarely an urgency, therefore, if you ever need this type of surgery, you’ll surely have enough time to discuss the details with your family and ophthalmologist.
Glaucoma is also a very common disease in people with Diabetes, and can also be hereditary. Glaucoma is a condition in which the eye pressure is high, causing damage to the optic nerve which may eventually lead to vision loss. One type of glaucoma is painful, others are not; this is dangerous because a person can have glaucoma for years and not know it. An ophthalmologist can easily detect glaucoma with a simple (painless) examination, where they can instantly know if the pressure is high or if there are changes in the optic nerve that may suggest this disease. There are many treatments available for glaucoma, ranging from pills and drops, to lasers and surgery. If glaucoma is treated in time, vision loss is rare.
Dry eye syndrome
An unpleasant condition that sometimes occurs with age and with Diabetes is dry eye syndrome. In this condition the lacrimal glands don’t produce enough tears to keep the eye surface moist. This results in irritation and a “gritty” sensation caused by dryness of the cornea, although one may get excessive tears due to the eye’s attempts to compensate for the dryness. Usually, this condition is unpleasant but not harmful, but in extreme cases it can cause serious changes in the eye structure. Symptoms can almost never be completely eliminated, but a few artificial tear drops can help.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye problem related to Diabetes. Its incidence increases as the person with Diabetes becomes older. There is between an 80 and 90% chance that a person will show signs of retinopathy after having Diabetes for more than 20 years. However, in most cases this will be a mild diabetic retinopathy, or nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy which doesn’t affect vision and doesn’t require treatment. On the other hand, there are now new advances and modern technologies that can successfully treat this problem, which was impossible years before.
Because severe diabetic retinopathy or proliferative diabetic retinopathy may be present without symptoms, it’s extremely important for patients to get regular checkups with an ophthalmologist. Again, the key to successful treatment is early detection.