Am I At Risk For Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetes is a serious medical problem, not just here in the United States, but worldwide. According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly one-and-a-half million Americans are newly diagnosed with diabetes every year as a result of dietary changes and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Even though early detection can help reduce long-term damage, a large percentage of diabetics will develop some form of eye disease during their lifetime. These include cataracts, corneal abnormalities, glaucoma, iris neovascularization and neuropathies. The most common, however, is diabetic retinopathy, which is, currently, the leading cause of blindness in the U.S.
When sugar levels in the blood become too high, it can lead to the blockage of the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina. When this blood supply is shut off, the eye attempts to grow new blood vessels, which end up not developing properly. They can swell and leak or totally cut off blood from passing through. Abnormal new blood vessels may begin to grow on the retina. Vision can be compromised or lost completely due to these changes.
Symptoms Of Diabetic Retinopathy
One of the problems with this condition and a factor in it’s being so widespread is that the symptoms may not appear in the early stages. Usually affecting both eyes, the symptoms to watch for as diabetic retinopathy progresses, include:
- Blurred vision
- Vision that changes back and forth from clear to blurry, at different times
- More than the occasional floater
- Colors lose intensity, appear faded
- Dark or blank areas in field of vision
- Poor night vision
- Loss of vision
Who Is At Risk?
Anyone with diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy, although, because of their higher propensity to becoming diabetic, certain ethnic groups are at a higher risk. These include African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans. Other factors that increase the likelihood of this condition:
- Length of time with diabetes – the longer, the greater the risk
- Blood sugar levels that remain out of control – lower levels delay the onset and slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy
- High blood pressure, which also damages blood vessels
- High cholesterol
- Pregnancy increases risk but may not be permanent
- Tobacco use – not only impairs insulin activity but nicotine also contributes to high blood pressure and higher cholesterol levels
While diabetic retinopathy cannot always be prevented, good health care practices can go a long way in the prevention of vision loss. It is important for everyone to monitor and maintain appropriate blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels but it is especially vital for diabetics. With regard to diabetic retinopathy, nothing may be more important that early diagnosis and treatment.
Long Island Ophthalmic Concepts is committed to providing each patient with an exceptional level of care and attention. Our dedicated staff works together as a team to provide high-quality, comprehensive care in our three convenient Long Island office locations. For more information about how we can help with your diabetic related eye care, or any other questions or comments, please call the office most convenient to you — Bellmore: 516.783.0300, Great Neck: 516.504.2020 or Huntington: 631.427.1690. If you would like to schedule an appointment, simply click here to go to our online scheduler.