Diabetes: Leading Cause of Blindness

Posted By Key-Whitman Eye Center || 5-Nov-2013

leadingcauseofblindnesssmallDiabetic retinopathy is an eye condition caused by diabetes in which the retina is damaged by leaky blood vessels. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to irreversible blindness. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of retinal blindness in the world.

Approximately 26 million men, women and children in the United States have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. About 25 percent of diabetics have some form of diabetic retinopathy and five percent have a serious case of the condition. The longer a patient has had diabetes, the greater his or her chances of developing diabetic retinopathy.

If diagnosed early and treated properly, it is possible to prevent partial or total vision loss from diabetic retinopathy. In order to prevent vision loss, patients with diabetes should maintain annual or bi-annual eye exams.

Proliferative retinopathy is the advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy that can result in blindness. At this stage, tiny new blood vessels grow along the retina. The extra blood vessels themselves are not harmful, but they are very fragile and prone to leaking. If the blood vessels leak blood into the eye, severe vision loss or total blindness may result.

Treatment for proliferative retinopathy Proliferative retinopathy can be treated with laser surgery to shrink the abnormal blood vessels. Treatment is most successful if performed before the blood vessels begin to leak blood into the eye. This is why it is imperative to have regular and fully dilated eye exams as directed by your doctor. If the blood vessels have already begun to leak, laser treatments may still be possible, depending on the amount of bleeding. If the bleeding is severe, a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy may be necessary.

Preventing diabetic eye disease People with type 2 diabetes usually have signs of eye problems when diabetes is first diagnosed. You can reduce your risk of diabetic retinopathy or slow progression of the condition by managing diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight with a low calorie diet and regular exercise along with control of blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol. It is also important to avoid smoking, as smoking may increase your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.

Whether you have been recently diagnosed with diabetes or have lived with the disease for years, your eyes may be at risk. If you experience changes in your vision including blurred vision, seeing black spots or flashes of light, or partial or complete loss of vision in one or both eyes, see your eye doctor immediately.

Vision loss cannot be reversed, but with proper care, it could be prevented. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam with Key-Whitman today.

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