November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month
Diabetes Awareness Month is a time when communities across the country team up to bring awareness to diabetes and urge action to tackle the diabetes epidemic. Today, one in three Canadians have diabetes* or prediabetes, and those at age 20 now face a 50 per cent chance of developing the disease. That staggering number speaks to the epidemic diabetes has become across Canada.
Almost 1/3 of diabetics don’t know they have the disease and are at risk for vision loss and other health problems.
The most common diabetic eye disease is diabetic retinopathy.
Once diagnosed with diabetes, you should schedule a complete eye exam, including dilation.
Early diagnosis of diabetes can help reduce your risk of developing eye disease related to diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy is a general term for all disorders of the retina caused by diabetes. There are two major types of retinopathy: nonproliferative and proliferative.
In nonproliferative retinopathy, the most common form of retinopathy, capillaries in the back of the eye balloon and form pouches. Nonproliferative retinopathy can move through three stages (mild, moderate, and severe), as more and more blood vessels become blocked.
Although retinopathy does not usually cause vision loss at this stage, the capillary walls may lose their ability to control the passage of substances between the blood and the retina. Fluid can leak into the part of the eye where focusing occurs, the macula. When the macula swells with fluid, a condition called macula edema, vision blurs and can be lost entirely. Although nonproliferative retinopathy usually does not require treatment, macular edema must be treated, but fortunately treatment is usually effective at stopping and sometimes reversing vision loss.
In some people, retinopathy progresses after several years to a more serious form called proliferative retinopathy. In this form, the blood vessels are so damaged they close off. In response, new blood vessels start growing in the retina. These new vessels are weak and can leak blood, blocking vision, which is a condition called vitreous hemorrhage. The new blood vessels can also cause scar tissue to grow. After the scar tissue shrinks, it can distort the retina or pull it out of place, a condition called retinal detachment.
Risk fators for Diabetic Retinopathy
Blood sugar control
Blood pressure levels
Duration of diabetes
The longer you’ve had diabetes, the more likely you are to have retinopathy. Almost everyone with type 1 diabetes will eventually have nonproliferative retinopathy. And most people with type 2 diabetes will also get it. But the retinopathy that destroys vision, proliferative retinopathy, is far less common.
People who keep their blood sugar levels closer to normal are less likely to have retinopathy or to have milder forms.
Your retina can be badly damaged before you notice any change in vision. Most people with nonproliferative retinopathy have no symptoms. Even with proliferative retinopathy, the more dangerous form, people sometimes have no symptoms until it is too late to treat them.
For this reason, you should have your eyes examined regularly by an eye care professional.
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