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How to Prevent Diabetic Vision Loss

Eye Complications of Diabetes

It's true. Diabetics have a higher risk of blindness than those without the disease. That fact coupled with the superior prognosis of early intervention, makes it easy to understand why optometrists and doctors say routine eye care is absolutely essential. Below, we'll discuss what your eye doctor is looking for during a diabetic eye exam.  

As the incidence of diabetes increases, it is important to spread awareness about the risks and proper preventative care for diabetes patients. November is Diabetes Awareness month, so read on!

Diabetics are at greater risk of for a number of eye problems.  

Diabetic Retinopathy:

Diabetic retinopathy is the term used for the disorders associated with diabetes that cause progressive damage to the retina.  The longer a patient has had diabetes, the more likely it is that he will develop these conditions which can be very serious, vision-threatening complications. 

There are two types of retinopathy: nonproliferative and proliferative. 

Nonproliferative retinopathy, which is the most common form, is when capillaries at the back of the eye become weakened and may start to leak blood and fluids. Nonproliferative retinopathy, which often has no symptoms, can be characterized as mild, moderate or severe, depending on how many blood vessels are affected and becoming blocked. This type of retinopathy usually doesn't require treatment and doesn't cause vision loss, unless the leaking fluid ends up in the macula where the eye focuses - a condition called macular edema. If this happens, vision can be blurred and even lost so preventative treatment is essential.  

Proliferative retinopathy is much more severe. This is when so much damage is done to the blood vessels that they begin to close off. New blood vessels begin to grow in the retina as a response to this deterioration. The new and weak vessels can leak blood, impairing vision, or can form scar tissue which can distort the retina or cause a retinal detachment.

Proliferative retinopathy requires urgent referral to an ophthalmologist for treatment. While it usually takes years to develop, some instances of proliferative retinopathy can occur within weeks or months if blood sugars are not well-controlled. Pregnancy can also accelerate proliferative retinopathy in known diabetics. Yet if detected early, treatment can be done successfully. 

Like high blood pressure, there are often no warning symptoms until advanced stages of diabetes. It is best to get checked each year by an optometrist. If you experience any changes in your vision such as spots in vision, flashes of light, blurred or double vision (rarely pain), make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately. Treatments do exists for retinopathy and many of them are successful in repairing damage and sometimes even restoring vision.

Cataracts: 

Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye which blocks light from entering and impairs vision. While cataracts are a fairly common and treatable condition, people with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop the condition and often get them at a younger age. Those with the condition also may experience vision fluctuation which occurs from sugar levels affecting the lens of the eye. Cataracts often progress faster in diabetics as well. In serious cases of cataracts, a surgical procedure is done to remove the natural lens of the eye which can sometimes cause complications in diabetic patients that may already have symptoms of other conditions such as diabetic retinopathy.

Glaucoma:

Glaucoma is a serious condition where pressure builds up in the eye causing damage to the retina and optic nerve and eventually if left untreated, blindness.  Diabetics are 40% more likely to develop glaucoma and the risk increases with age and the amount of time the individual has had diabetes. There are treatments for glaucoma including medications and surgery but early detection and treatment are essential to prevent permanent vision loss. Glaucoma is often called the "silent thief of sight" because vision loss often doesn't occur until significant damage is done. Therefore, yearly eye exams are essential. 

Cornea Alterations:

Diabetics may experience reduced sensitivity in their cornea. This means that contact lens wearers that are diabetics should be more cautious, as they develop higher tolerance if the lens irritates the eyes and may be at greater risk of infection. 

Eye Muscle Disturbance:

More advanced diabetes cases can show restriction of eye muscle movement due to nerve palsy. 

 

For diabetics, the key to early detection and treatment - and therefore preserving your vision - is to have your eye health monitored on a regular basis. Get your eyes examined every year by an optometrist and if you experience any changes in your vision such as spots, floaters, blurred vision or pain, make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately. 

Dear Richie Eye Clinic & LASIK Center Family and Friends,

As we head into the Holiday Season and the New Year, I have some news to share.

As many of you know, we have added some new doctors to our team in the last couple of years. Dr. Josh Spedding OD, our new Optometrist, joined us last summer and is currently seeing patients in both our Northfield and Faribault offices. We are thrilled to have Dr. Spedding on our team and welcome him and his family to the area.

Dr. Cory Miller, MD joined us in 2021 and we welcomed Dr. Mike Reinsbach, MD to our team this past summer. Both are Board Certified Ophthalmologists and skilled surgeons specializing in High Technology Cataract Surgery with Advanced Lens Implants, LASIK, Retinal injections, MIGS Surgery for Glaucoma, as well as the usual medical and surgical management of eye disease.

With the addition of these high performing providers, I am transitioning my role in 2023 to concentrate on Practice Development while continuing to serve as the Medical Director overseeing our practice protocols and procedures. Dr. Miller and Dr. Reinsbach will be assuming my day-to-day patient care duties.

I have done my best over the past several months to tell everyone of this transition plan while personally introducing Dr. Miller and Dr. Reinsbach; please accept my apologies if I missed any of you during this time.

Rest assured, we will continue our commitment to providing cutting edge care. Starting in 2023 look for Dropless Cataract Surgery, Light-Adjustable Lens Implants, and so much more…

Thank you for the Trust and Confidence you have shown me over the past 32 years. Please feel free to call us at (507) 332-9900 for questions, concerns, or clarification.

Sincerely,

Mike Richie, MD

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