Diabetes is a disease that is on the rise in the United States. According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2015 there were 30.3 million Americans with diabetes. That comes to almost 10% of the population, with one third of those Americans being undiagnosed. There are 1.5 million new patients that are diagnosed with diabetes every year. It is the 7th leading cause of death, and it costs an estimated $245 billion to our economy every year. This disease is on the rise, mostly due to the type of diet Americans have, combined with our activity levels. Diabetes is a serious disease, and it can be very damaging to the eyes.
Diabetes causes a fluctuation in the blood sugar (glucose) levels your veins and arteries. When your sugar levels change during the day, it can cause medium to small blood vessels to bleed or leak. The back of your eye is called the retina, and it is what collects all the information and turns it into an image for your brain. The retina is full of these small to medium sized blood vessels, and they are particularly prone to leaking and bleeding with diabetes. If you have bleeding in the retina it is called Diabetic Retinopathy, and it is the leading cause of vision loss globally. It is estimated that around one third of all diabetics have some level of Diabetic Retinopathy.
There are different levels of Diabetic Retinopathy, some of which can severely damage your vision. When the blood vessels leak blood or fluid, you can get swelling or areas of the retina that are not receiving the proper nutrients. When this happens, the retina sends out signals to the body for help, and the body builds new blood vessels into the retina. The problem with these new blood vessels, is they leak worse than the old vessels in the retina. This causes a cycle that continues to get worse until the retina can no longer function, and the patient can no longer see.
The biggest risk factors for Diabetic Retinopathy is length of time with Diabetes. The longer you have the disease, the higher risk you are for progression of Diabetic Retinopathy. Other risk factors include having a high A1c, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, which often are diagnosed in people with Diabetes.
The good news is, Diabetic Retinopathy and the damage it can cause is mostly preventable. With diet and exercise, people can lower their A1c (average blood glucose) and better control their diabetes. Yearly eye exams are very important to monitor for any sign of Diabetic Retinopathy. There are procedures that can be done if the blood vessels are leaking, to prevent vision loss and keep the eye healthy. It is recommended to get a DILATED eye exam every year if you are diabetic, and your primary care provider should be recommending this.
If you are diabetic and haven’t had your yearly Eye exam yet, call us at 715-732-2101 today!