Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness among adults in the United States, making annual eye examinations evermore important for determining the risk of vision loss. At Williamsburg Eye Care we offer Optomap Retinal Imaging, which often provides our optometrists a more confident view of the retina compared to the traditional method of dilation. In some cases dilating the eye will be required to compliment retinal imaging, while at other times imaging is used to document the severity of retinopathy when dilation is chosen.
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy can be subtle. As with many causes of vision loss, blindness due to diabetes is painless. In diabetes blood sugar levels remain elevated, causing the veins within the vascular system to leak. While this can occur throughout the body, examination of the retina provides optometrists the ability to view the vascular system directly. As retinal veins begin to leak the retina is placed into a state of oxygen debt, or hypoxia. When the retina reaches this state new blood vessels develop to provide more oxygen. These new blood vessels, however, leak more, compounding the problem. This is referred to as proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
In many cases, diabetic retinopathy requires controlling your blood glucose level. Our optometrists work with your primary care provider to notify them of any retinopathy in the eye. As retinopathy worsens you may be placed on more frequent exam schedules and as risk increases or retinopathy requires, referred to a retina surgeon for treatment. Treatment for what's referred to as high-risk nonproliferative retinopathy and/or proliferative retinopathy may require an injection of medication into the eye. Treatment may also require a laser to reduce the hypoxic conditions. The difference between non-proliferative and proliferative retinopathy is the development of new blood vessels.
The risk of diabetic retinopathy increases with the length of time someone is diabetic. Controlling blood sugar, maintaining a healthy diet, and exercising can help reduce the development of diabetic retinopathy.
To learn more about the importance of annual eye exams for diabetics, contact Williamsburg Eye Care at our office in Williamsburg, Virginia. You can call us at (757) 564-1907 to schedule an appointment today.