There are many conditions that can be found during an eye examination, and diabetes is a notable and relatively common example. We screen for this at our clinic and can diagnose and manage it as necessary.
We perform complete eye examinations and have the advanced technology necessary to manage diabetic eye issues. This article will explain the basics of diabetic eye disease and how we look for it in your appointment with us.
Diabetes in the Body
You might know that diabetes mellitus is a condition where there is a higher than normal concentration of sugar or glucose in the blood due to a lack of production of, or a bodily resistance to, the hormone insulin, which is responsible for the storage of glucose in various tissues. Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in childhood as a result of not enough insulin being produced, and type 2 diabetes usually occurs later in life as a result of insulin not working properly on the body’s cells.
High sugar levels in the bloodstream lead to damage of the blood vessels and the tissues that they supply. The eye is supplied by many tiny blood vessels, and when diabetes is not properly controlled or when it is present for many years, there can be effects in any part of the eye.
Diabetes in the Eye
We especially look for signs of diabetes in the retina, the light sensing layer at the back of the eye. Diabetic damage here might appear as small blood spots, swollen tissues, or new blood vessel growth; this new vessel growth happens in the most severe stages of the disease and can be highly damaging to the eye.
There can also be changes to the lens inside the eye, leading to changes in vision and prescription; the cornea at the front of the eye, leading to increased chance of infection; the colored iris, leading to new vessel growth and an increased chance of developing other eye diseases like glaucoma; and to the nerves that innervate the various eye structures like the eyelids.
If diabetic eye disease is found, it is a hint to us that something about the patient’s management of their sugar levels or the medication they are on needs to be changed to improve diabetic control. If new blood vessel growth is found anywhere in the eye, a medicine that stops this growth is injected into the eye every few weeks until this is under control.
Diabetic Eye Exam and Diagnosis
It is important to note that these eye changes are not always symptomatic. Early to moderate diabetic eye disease can be picked up before the patient notices visual changes, and we want to catch these issues and fix them before they become severe and to the point where they can cause irreversible vision loss.