Eye Care for Diabetics at San Diego Eye Care Center
Also Serving Oceanside, CA
What Is Diabetic Eye Disease?
Diabetic eye disease is a group of conditions that threaten the vision and ocular health of people with diabetes. The most common diabetic eye disease is diabetic retinopathy, which affects the retina. Diabetic patients are also more likely to develop cataracts and glaucoma.
Diabetic eye diseases often go unnoticed until it is too late to reverse vision loss. For this reason, the team at San Diego Eye Care Center encourages anyone with diabetes to have annual eye exams to screen for signs of a problem. Catching diabetic eye disease early makes it easier to prevent or delay vision loss and cuts the risk of blindness by 95 percent.
How Can Diabetes Affect Vision or Cause Vision Loss?
People with diabetes have trouble controlling the amount of sugar in their blood. High levels of sugar in the blood can change the blood vessels in the retina, the layer of light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. This leads to the condition known as diabetic retinopathy.
In the early stages of the disease, referred to as non-proliferative retinopathy, the retina’s blood vessels swell and leak fluid. In the later, more advanced stages, known as proliferative retinopathy, new abnormal blood vessels grow along the retina and on the surface of the vitreous gel inside the eye. These irregular blood vessels are fragile and can break easily, leaking blood. The leaking blood vessels may cause blurred vision.
A complication of diabetic retinopathy, called macular edema, occurs when fluid leaks into the central part of the retina called the macula. If this fluid builds up, it can obstruct the central vision needed to capture fine detail. Vision may appear blurred or distorted. About half of people with proliferative retinopathy develop macular edema.
Diabetic retinopathy often progresses without any pain or symptoms; by the time the disease is detected, it has caused lasting damage. However, some patients do experience the following symptoms:
- Blurred or double vision
- Red or black ink spots that change shape, new floaters and flashes of light
- Pain or pressure in one or both eyes
- A curtain covering part of the vision or trouble seeing out of part of the eye
- A central blur
Anyone experiencing those symptoms is urged to schedule a screening with the team at San Diego Eye Care Center.
How Is Diabetic Retinopathy Managed and Treated?
There are several ways to manage and treat diabetic retinopathy, depending on the stage. Some of these therapies can be combined if needed.
Anti-VEGF drugs are helpful in controlling diabetic retinopathy. These drugs block a protein called VEGF that triggers the growth of new abnormal blood vessels. Anti-VEGF injection therapy reverses the blood vessel growth and decreases fluid in the retina. Monthly treatment is recommended at the beginning, and gradually the frequency of treatments is reduced. Steroid injections are another useful way to reduce swelling.
Laser surgery can be performed as needed to seal off the leaking blood vessels or shrink them.
Another option is vitrectomy, or the surgical removal of the eye’s vitreous gel, leaking blood vessels and scar tissue. The vitreous gel is then replaced with a salt solution.
Can Diabetic Patients Have Blepharoplasty and Other Cosmetic Treatments?
It is usually safe for patients with diabetes to undergo cosmetic eye treatments like blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery), Botox and dermal fillers, as long as the diabetes is under control and communicated to the doctor. Diabetes is not a contraindication for eyelid surgery or injectables. There may be slightly higher risks, like infection, but those can be managed by the doctor and medical team with the proper precautions.
Preventing Diabetic Eye Disease
Type I diabetes will require insulin for control and is permanent, unless a Beta cell transplant can be performed. Type II diabetes is acquired and may be reversed or controlled with lifestyle. Below are some excellent links to follow that will give you all the information needed to control and reverse your diabetes:
Dr. John McDougall
Dr. Joel Fuhrman
Dr. Neal Barnard
Dr. Michael Greger at NutritionFacts.org
When blood sugar is uncontrolled and there are ocular findings from diabetes that are not treated, blindness can occur within two years. Regular examinations for diabetic patients are vital to protecting your vision and preventing problems from advancing into serious or chronic problems. When ocular diabetic complications occur, laser and surgery are only effective when blood sugar and blood pressure is controlled. A good baseline goal for all diabetics is to keep their blood pressure control and hemoglobin A1C at seven or below to prevent end-organ damage in the eye, peripheral nerves and kidneys.
Contact San Diego Eye Care Center
To schedule a consultation to discuss your eye care needs, please contact our office at (760) 757-1144.