What is diabetic eye disease?
Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye conditions that can affect people with diabetes. It can affect all parts of the eye including the cornea, iris, lens, macula, retina and optic nerve.
Diabetic retinopathy affects blood vessels in the light-sensitive tissue called the retina that lines the back of the eye. It is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness among working-age adults.
Diabetic macular edema (DME) is a consequence of diabetic retinopathy, DME is swelling in an area of the retina called the macula, which affects the central part of your vision.
Diabetic eye disease also includes cataracts,glaucoma, and dry eye syndrome:
- A Cataract is a clouding of the lens inside the eye. Adults with diabetes are 2-5 times more likely than those without diabetes to develop cataracts. Cataracts also tend to develop at an earlier age in people with diabetes.
- Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve—the bundle of nerve fibers that connects the eye to the brain. Some types of glaucoma are associated with elevated pressure inside the eye. In adults, diabetes nearly doubles the risk of glaucoma
- Many diabetics also suffer from Dry Eye Syndrome due to decreased corneal sensitivity, which can cause your eyes to burn, water and feel sandy or gritty.
All forms of diabetic eye disease have the potential to cause severe vision loss and blindness.
Who is at risk for diabetic retinopathy?
People with all types of diabetes (type 1, type 2, and gestational) are at risk for diabetic retinopathy. Risk increases the longer a person has diabetes. Between 40 and 45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy, although only about half are aware of it. Women who develop or have diabetes during pregnancy may have rapid onset or worsening of diabetic retinopathy.
How are diabetic retinopathy and DME detected?
Our optometrist can detect Diabetic retinopathy and DME during a comprehensive dilated eye exam that includes:
- Visual acuity testing. This eye chart test measures a person’s ability to see at various distances.
- Tonometry. This test measures pressure inside the eye.
- Pupil dilation. Drops placed on the eye’s surface dilate (widen) the pupil, allowing a physician to examine the retina and optic nerve.
- Optical coherence tomography (OCT). This technique is similar to ultrasound but uses light waves instead of sound waves to capture images of tissues inside the body. OCT provides detailed images of tissues that can be penetrated by light, such as the eye.
A comprehensive dilated eye exam allows the doctor to check the retina for:
- Changes to blood vessels
- Leaking blood vessels or warning signs of leaky blood vessels, such as fatty deposits
- Swelling of the macula (DME)
- Changes in the lens
- Damage to nerve tissue