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November is Diabetic Eye Disease Month

Posted Nov 06 2012 6:00am

Laura Green, M.D.

November is Diabetic Eye Disease Month. Diabetic eye disease is one of the major causes of vision loss in adults.  When the sugar levels in your blood are high, it is very stressful on the blood vessels all over your body, putting you at risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease.  In the eye, blood vessels can start to leak or bleed in reaction to high blood sugar.  This swelling in the retina can decrease your vision, so it’s best detected and treated early.

How is diabetic eye disease treated?  First control your blood sugar.  Your eye doctor will examine your eyes, and may take some picutures of the retina at the back of the eye to locate areas of swelling.  If you have diabetic eye disease, injections of medication into the eye or laser treatments, or both, may be required to stop or slow down the abnormal blood vessels.

Unlike cataracts, you can’t replace your retina when it isn’t working.  Unlike glaucoma, you can’t take eye drops to control it.  The best treatment is prevention, and that involves blood sugar control, and regular eye exams.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends seeing your eye doctor when you receive a new diagnosis of diabetes, and at least every year after that.  More frequent visits to the eye doctor may be required if there is some diabetic eye disease.  With good blood sugar control and appropriate eye exams people with diabetes can keep their eyes healthy and seeing well.

Learn more by visiting the Prevent Blindness America website .

- Written by Laura Green, M.D. , Residency Program Director, Cornea, Cataract and Refractive Surgery, Krieger Eye Institute , Sinai Hospital of Baltimore

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