Diabetes is a major cause of loss of vision. Some studies report that 20% of diabetic patients have changes in their retina, called diabetic retinopathy, that could lead to a permanent and untreatable loss of vision if not detected early.

At SEE RIGHT NOW with TIMOTHY PEROZEK,MD , our ophthalmologist is trained to help you detect and treat diseases of the eye associated with diabetes. Cataracts, glaucoma, dry eye, and eye infections, in addition to diabetic retinopathy, are all more common in diabetic patients, especially those with poor blood sugar control or who also have high blood pressure, anemia, high cholesterol, or who smoke.

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the breakdown products from high blood sugar levels cause damage to the tiny blood vessels in your eyes. These blood vessels begin to leak fluids into the retina and the retina becomes starved for oxygen and nutrients. Damaged retinal cells try to recover by stimulating the growth of new blood vessels, but these are fragile and can break and bleed into the retina, causing more damage. In the early stages, there are no symptoms, but we can see the evidence of this occurring on a thorough exam of your retina.

Prevention and Treatment

Controlling your blood sugar to achieve a low Hemoglobin A1C level definitely reduces your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. This can be done with weight loss, exercise, and improved nutrition. Blood sugar reducing medication is necessary for many diabetic patients. Also, avoiding smoking, controlling other medical conditions, and improving your nutrition with foods high in antioxidants, like fruits and vegetables, will help reduce your risk. It is important to work closely with your primary physician and/or endocrinologist to be certain all of these are being addressed and your treatment is working.

Frequent and regular eye exams can help us detect eye changes in the early stages so that treatment can begin before these changes damage your eyesight. Even if you have no symptoms, diabetic patients should get their eyes examined once a year. Treatment may involve injection of medicine into the eye or the use of office laser procedures, which can be done to repair the damaged blood vessels, and microsurgical procedures, like a vitrectomy, for more extensive disease.

If you have diabetes, diabetic retinopathy and/or diabetic macular edema schedule your appointment with Dr. Perozek for a consultation. He will determine if you need treatment with a retina specialist for laser or intravitreal injections with Avastin, Lucentis, or Eylea.