If you are lucky enough to have good eyesight, you may be surprised when your diabetes care team recommends that you make an appointment with an eye doctor. If your vision is stable, and your eyes don’t bother you, why should you have your eyes checked?
The answer is that many potentially devastating eye problems develop without causing discomfort or distorting vision.
In addition, there’s diabetic retinopathy, a serious complication that is more likely to occur in people with Type 1 diabetes but may develop in anyone with diabetes. Tight blood glucose control can significantly reduce the incidence and severity of diabetic retinopathy, but the only way to identify this and other eye problems in their earliest and most treatable stages is to have regular, comprehensive eye examinations.
There’s no reason to avoid an eye exam; it involves a series of painless tests that check your visual acuity and general eye health and screen for signs of disease.
The earliest changes of retinopathy can be temporary: here today and gone in six months. If damage continues, though, the risk increases that new, abnormal blood vessels will start to sprout in retina and poke through into the vitreous. This important change is called going from background retinopathy to proliferative retinopathy.
If diabetic retinopathy is present, it may cause damage near the macula. Fluid leaking into the macula makes it swell like a mosquito bite. This swelling, called macular edema, is the most common cause of visual impairment in diabetic retinopathy. (Reduced blood supply to the macula is a less common occurrence. As yet, it is not treatable.)
The new blood vessels apparently proliferate in an attempt to increase blood and oxygen supply to the damaged retina. They are so fragile, though, that they rupture at a cough, a sneeze, or even during sleep. Blood pours into the retina, blocking vision suddenly. When the bleeding stops, scar tissue forms, tugging at the retina and adding the potential for a retinal detachment.
Untreated proliferative retinopathy usually leads to blindness. Not long ago, diabetic retinopathy was just about the most discouraging condition that ophthalmologists had to deal with. Fortunately, in recent years, a number of large national studies have proven that laser treatment of the retina can help control proliferative diabetic retinopathy and significantly prolong useful vision.
Ironically, laser treatment works by producing scarring on the affected retina. The treated part of the retina will no longer see, but the laser treatment halts the growth of new blood vessels and preserves vision in the most important part of the retina, the macula. Laser treatment for diabetic retinopathy is a tremendous tool that has expanded the ability to treat diabetic eye problems.
If you are diagnosed with proliferative retinopathy, Doctor Swedberg may recommend a Fluorescein Angiography, a procedure that injects a small amount of fluorescein dye in the blood that show up in the back of the eye and maps abnormal blood vessel growth.
This procedure is done in our office with a special camera, and results are assessed at the time of the appointment.
After going over the photographs with you, Doctor Swedberg may recommend laser treatment. Laser treatment scheduled and preformed at Swedish Edmonds Eye Center.
Call for an appointment: (425) 778-2500
Medicare Part B may cover one yearly exam for diabetic retinopathy, as long as the exam is conducted by an eye doctor who has been approved by your state.
You must be enrolled in Medicare Part B and have diabetes in order for Medicare to cover your annual eye exam. For more information.
A fluorescein angiography is a medical procedure in which a fluorescent dye is injected into the bloodstream. The dye highlights the blood vessels in the back of the eye so they can be photographed.
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