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Diabetic Eyecare

Diabetes is a common cause of blindness in adults. Those with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are the most susceptible to eye and vision complications such as retinopathy and cataracts.

The best way to maintain your eye health and stay ahead of possible eye disease onset is by scheduling regular eye exams with your licensed Optometrist. The best time to catch damage occurring in the eye is early, when treatments tend to be more effective, and before it starts to affect your vision. Our experts at Poudre Valley Eyecare specialize in preventative care and treatment for those who are both prone to and suffering from diabetes-related vision problems.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high levels of blood sugar damage the blood vessels in the eye – especially the retina. The retina is the back portion of the eye that is composed of the sensitive photoreceptors that turn light into information that your brain processes to produce our most valuable sense, VISION.

When strained by the pressure of excess blood sugar, the blood vessels begin to release fluid and blood into the retina which can lead to an array of eye and vision complications. When blood is lost, swelling occurs within the macula (the most central area inside the retina). Often early retinopathy does not impact your vision directly, but if left untreated can cause severe eye problems as it progresses.

Non-Proliferative Retinopathy

One may not experience symptoms during the early stages of retinopathy, typically referred to as non-proliferative retinopathy. This phenomena occurs when the blood vessels in the retina and possibly the macula begin to leak blood and plasma. If mild to moderate and occurs in the periphery the vision will not be affected.  If this occurs in the macula the vision may be affected.  At this stage, no new blood vessels are growing within the retina. 

Many people with diabetes experience some degree of non-proliferative retinopathy.  The chances increase the longer someone has had diabetes or the degree of severe fluctuations in sugar levels or high sustained sugar levels

Proliferative Retinopathy

Proliferative retinopathy is the more advanced form of eye disease for diabetic patients. This phase can be identified by observing new blood vessel growth within the retina. This process, otherwise known as neovascularization, produces several small and fragile blood vessels throughout the retina. These new vessels often continue to bleed easily and can lead to vitreous hemorrhage or retinal detachment (causing permanent vision loss).  In most retinopathy cases, both eyes are affected equally.

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

If you experience blurred vision to any degree, it may be a sign of retinopathy. Similarly, eye floaters may be a sign of vision impairment from high blood sugar levels. No matter the severity or longevity of symptoms, blurred vision to any degree is reason enough to seek help from a licensed professional.

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy may or may not include:

  • Constant or sporadic blurring of vision
  • Increased “floaters” in eye
  • Dark areas in central or peripheral vision
  • Poor vision in the dark
  • Blindness

Diagnosis & Treatment

To diagnose diabetic retinopathy, you’ll need to schedule a comprehensive, dilated eye exam so your licensed Optometrist can perform a detailed examination on your retina. During the exam, our doctors will look for typical symptoms of retinopathy, paying close attention to factors like damaged/hemorrhaged blood vessels, internal macular swelling and new blood vessel growth.

The level of treatment required for retinopathy varies depending on the stage of the disease and the amount of retinal damage that has already occurred.

A healthy diet with keen blood glucose management and an active lifestyle are always necessary for diabetic and non-diabetic patients alike, and will likely be recommended.

However, the condition may require medical intervention. Common treatment options include: vitrectomy, laser coagulation, laser surgery, anti-VEGF inhibitor, steroid treatments.

Our experts at Poudre Valley Eyecare recommend getting your eyes checked regularly by scheduling a routine eye exam. Diabetic patients who are especially susceptible to eye disease and vision impairment should pay extra attention to their eye health and schedule an appointment at least once per year. Our doctors are trained in eye treatment of all types and look forward to helping you on your journey toward improved vision and eye care. Should surgery be necessary, we can connect you with the leading eye surgeons and specialists in Colorado to support your unique needs.

There’s an easier way to maintain your eye health and vision with diabetes. Contact our team today to schedule your next eye exam and decide on the treatment path that makes the most sense for you.

Diabetic Retinopathy: Risk Factors and Management

People with diabetes know that the majority of treatment involves day-to-day management outside a medical office. Our focus is on you at Poudre Valley Eyecare, so we want you to have the information you need to make your life better. Here are some risk factors to look out for and tips for managing retinopathy risk.

Diabetic Retinopathy: Risk Factors and Management

People with diabetes know that the majority of treatment involves day-to-day management outside a medical office. Our focus is on you at Poudre Valley Eyecare, so we want you to have the information you need to make your life better. Here are some risk factors to look out for and tips for managing retinopathy risk.

Risk Factors

Knowledge is power. For eye problems that uniquely affect individuals with diabetes, knowing the symptoms of retinopathy is crucial for early detection and treatment. Here are the flags to look out for, all of which–if experienced–are excellent reasons to consult your eye doctor.

Any and all vision changes

Types 1 and 2 alike, both recent and long-term diagnoses, should be on the lookout for vision changes. Call your eye doctor if you notice new or worsening blurriness, spots/floaters, dark areas anywhere in your sight, less ability to see without adequate lighting, or blindness.

Unmanaged blood sugar levels

This is a given, as blood sugar management is the hallmark of diabetes. However, with attention given to what goes in (eating), there may be less of an understanding of what unmanaged blood sugar can do (physiologic effect).

Sugar is carried through the bloodstream as glycosylated hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a molecule of red blood cells and also transports oxygen. When hemoglobin is heavily glycated (high amounts of blood sugar), it grabs and holds onto oxygen more strongly. This can result in less oxygen delivery to tissues and even higher blood pressure as blood volume in a given space is increased due to greater numbers of molecules.

For people with diabetes, this is magnified, as insulin resistance decreases your body’s ability to get sugar out of the bloodstream.

In the small blood vessels of the eyes, increased blood pressure can disrupt the typical flow of blood and nutrients, causing eye problems. Further, your brain may tell new blood vessel “detours” to try and grow around the high-traffic areas, which in turn can cause more severe and noticeable vision problems.

For pregnant individuals experiencing vision changes, be sure to consult your eye doctor and general practitioner, as gestational diabetes can develop in those not diagnosed with diabetes.

Hemoglobin A1C

If you haven’t had a Hemoglobin A1C test ever or recently it’s worth doing so. It’s a good check of how effective your current strategies are managing your blood sugar levels. A high A1C (the goal is to be below 7%) could be another indication to get an eye appointment as most early effects of retinopathy, non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, can be asymptomatic.

Reducing Risk

After reading the previous section you may be wondering, “So, what can I do to reduce my risk?” Besides strict adherence to medical direction, healthy diet and exercise are the primary lifestyle influencers of better blood sugar levels and, therefore, healthier vision. Having a regular eye exam is the best thing you can do for your vision and can catch early signs of retinopathy.

Diet

Diet is extremely individualized, but there are some ground rules that can help shape day-to-day decisions. Overall, the Mayo Clinic gives some of the best advice: “A diabetes diet simply means eating the healthiest foods in moderate amounts and sticking to regular mealtimes.“

They break this down into decreasing fat and calorie intake and emphasizing healthy carbohydrates (i.e. vegetables, whole grains, beans and peas) along with fiber intake. If you can better manage your sugar (aka carbohydrate) intake, you’ll have less work to do on the exercise side! However, there are significant benefits to exercise beyond calorie consumption.

“Regular mealtimes” are another important aspect of a healthy diet for people diagnosed with diabetes. You’ll want to keep very consistent mealtimes and medication times to avoid unintentionally high or low blood sugar levels. An example of this could be a person taking his or her insulin without eating breakfast, resulting in abnormally low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)– which can be a medical emergency.

Exercise

Calories in = calories out.

Calories are a measure of energy, or fuel, for the body. If you take in more fuel than you use, it gets stored. If you have diabetes, your body has a decreased ability or inability to effectively store and utilize sugar. Regular exercise is a good cue for your body to use up some fuel, and can increase insulin sensitivity in both type 1 and 2 diabetes. Here are some more benefits of exercise for people diagnosed with diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association advises “most adults with diabetes should engage in 150 min or more of moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity weekly, spread over at least 3 days/week, with no more than 2 consecutive days without activity.”

There are a number of exercise suggestions and plans available on the internet. Be sure to receive clearance from your doctor before starting a plan, and consider working with a certified personal trainer who has worked with other people with diabetes.

Make an appointment

Early treatment of diabetic retinopathy is the most effective way to reduce risk and improve your vision! At Poudre Valley Eye Care, we want to help you reach and maintain the highest quality of life possible. For individuals with diabetes, routine eye care can protect or enhance your vision.

Why Choose Us?

Our advanced technology and individualized care deliver results for patients of all ages. Our routine exams allow us to spot changes in your vision and allow us to treat those changes early. We have a comprehensive understanding of eye care, which means we can treat a wide range of conditions and chronic diseases. Our in-depth routine exams and customized treatment plans set us apart from the rest.