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Articles > Diabetes' effect on eye care; diabetic retinopathy causes; preventing eye problems; early signs of diabetic eye disease; treatments

Diabetes' effect on eye care; diabetic retinopathy causes; preventing eye problems; early signs of diabetic eye disease; treatments

Q&A: Ask the experts on eye care

Nina Ngai

Provided by HealthMonitor

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Jennifer K. Sun, MD, MPH, is an ophthalmologist and chief of the Center of Clinical Eye Research and Trials at the Beetham Eye Institute of Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.

Q: How does diabetes affect a person’s eyes?
A: Diabetes can affect all the structures in the eye. But the major effects are generally in the retina, which is the light-sensitive membrane that lines the back of each eye. Diabetes-related damage to the retina is called diabetic retinopathy, and can cause a variety of problems, including retinal bleeding, changes to the shape and course of retinal blood vessels, and thickening and swelling of the center of the retina (diabetic macular edema). Diabetic macular edema is the leading cause of moderate vision loss. Patients with diabetes are also at a higher risk for cataracts (a clouding of the lens at the front of the eye).

Q: What causes diabetic retinopathy?
A: The major cause is high blood sugar levels. This can lead to many changes that affect nerve cells and the course of blood flow within the retina.

Q: How can a person with diabetes prevent these eye problems?
A: The most important thing to do is maintain strict control over your blood sugar levels. You can easily monitor this by regularly having A1c blood tests, which measure your average blood sugar levels over a 2- to 3-month period. Try to keep your A1c level under 7%. Also, keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels low. Both of these factors can affect retinal complications and vision loss. Finally, if you have diabetes, see your ophthalmologist at least once a year for a dilated eye exam. You can develop retinal complications before you notice vision changes, but eye-care specialists can spot any early signs of eye problems and preserve your vision.

Q: What are the early signs of diabetic eye disease?
A: Blurry vision is what people with diabetes often notice first. This can occur when blood sugar levels fluctuate a lot. Occasionally, people with diabetic macular edema notice that straight lines appear wavy, or they see wavy patches in their field of vision. Also look for “floaters,” black spots or black “cobwebs.” These can be signs of hemorrhaging within the eye. If you experience flashing in your eye that doesn’t come from an outside light source, it can be a sign that something is tugging on the retina. If you notice any of these symptoms, see an ophthalmologist right away.

Q: Are good treatments available?
A: Yes. This is an exciting time. There currently are a host of new treatment options for people with diabetes-related eye conditions and other eye problems. Over the past 30 years, laser treatment has become a well-established method for halting the progress of diabetic retinopathy. There are new medications that can be injected into the eye that have been shown to effectively treat retinopathy symptoms. The eye-care field currently is developing other eye medications, including oral drugs and topical drops. In the near future, we will see favorable results.

Web Extra!See more on diabetes eye care @ www.healthmonitor.com
Diabetes Mellitis (Type II) Diabetic Retinopathy Blindness Blurred Vision Edema Impaired Vision Loss of Vision Vision Changes Vision Loss Cataracts Edema Diabetes Hyperlipidemia Hypertension Floaters Swelling

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