Be your own HERO. PROTECT your eyes!
Some people don’t take their diabetes seriously, but YOU are different. YOU are determined to protect your vision in order to protect yourself and those you love most. You have said “EYE Can Do It!” and you are now ready to learn how. We salute your bravery. To learn about vision loss risk factors, testing, and other ways to protect your vision, read on.
To protect your vision, you need to know what factors and behaviors increase your risk of vision loss:
Several factors increase your risk of vision loss when you have diabetes. Knowing which factors put you at risk and taking steps to control them is the best way to protect your vision. If you wait until you have problems with vision, it could be too late:
The Longer You Have Diabetes
The longer you have lived with diabetes, the greater the chances of developing DR and, ultimately, DME.
If you have diabetes, you need to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam every year.
High Blood Glucose
Having too much glucose in your blood greatly increases your risk for vision loss. Keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible can delay or even prevent the development of DR.
High Blood Levels of Fats (lipids)
Our blood naturally has fats like cholesterol and triglycerides, but having too much of them increases your risk for DR and DME, by two- or three-fold. Keep these levels as close to normal as possible to prevent vision loss.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure increases the risk of developing DR and DME. High blood pressure can also damage certain organs, like the kidneys. Damaged kidneys are a risk factor for DME.
Having kidney disease may increase your risk for developing DR and especially DME.
Other Diabetes Conditions
Diabetes can harm many parts of your body and can cause a lot of different health problems. The more conditions you have from diabetes, like nerve damage or kidney disease, the greater your risk for getting even more problems, like DME.
Pregnant women with diabetes may be at higher risk for Diabetic Retinopathy and should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam early in the pregnancy. Your doctor may recommend more frequent exams for the rest of the pregnancy.
Other risk factors include cardiovascular disease, anemia, sleep apnea, obesity, genetics, frequent alcohol consumption, and a sedentary (inactive) lifestyle.
The best way to protect yourself is to have your eyes SCREENED regularly by an eye doctor.
Find an eye care professional (such as a retina specialist, ophthalmologist, or optometrist) who has experience with early diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema. If you get annual eye exams and your doctor does finds early signs of DR or DME, you have a good chance of saving your vision with early treatment. It is important to get tested, even if you don’t notice any issues with your vision. Comprehensive eye exams catch early signs of eye problems that would be undetected otherwise.
Make sure you get a DILATED eye exam: this involves eye drops that make your pupils larger.
Up to 50% of diabetes patients do not get eye exams or are diagnosed when it is too late for treatment to work. Don’t let this be you! Get a comprehensive eye exam every year, which includes a visual acuity test using an eye chart, an eye pressure check, and a dilated eye exam.
A comprehensive eye exam can catch early signs of DR and DME, like:
Leaky blood vessels in your retina
Damage or any change to your blood vessels
Swelling in the retina
This exam usually includes:
You will get eye drops that make it easier for the doctor to see what is inside your eye. Your doctor will then use a magnifying lens to get a better look to check for anything abnormal.
Your eye doctor will ask you to look at an eye chart to measure the clarity of your vision from a distance. The letters are large at the top of the chart and get smaller towards the bottom; if you have good vision, you will be able to see farther down the chart.
Your eye doctor will use a special microscope with a light to measure the pressure inside your eye. Numbing eye drops may be given before the test.
If, based on these tests, your doctor suspects DME, you should have a retina specialist test you for DME with a special camera technique called optical coherence tomography (OCT).
If, based on these tests, your doctor notices any problems, you may be given additional tests, including:
optical coherence tomography (OCT)
fluorescein angiography (FA)
A fundus camera takes color photographs of the retina to help diagnose and monitor problems on the surface of the retina.
OCT is the recommended tool to test for DME. It uses a special type of camera that photographs and measures the thickness of your retina. It can show any swelling and fluid in the retina.
Your eye doctor may also use something called a fluorescein angiogram (FA) to test for DME. If you get this exam, you will get an injection in your arm with a type of dye. Once this dye is in your blood, your doctor can take pictures of the blood vessels in your retina and see if any vessels are leaking. However, experts believe that FA is not an adequate test and really recommend using OCT to be more sure of the presence or absence of DME.
In addition to screening, MONITORING is key. YOU are in control of your destiny!
Beyond getting screened, you should monitor your health as a way to prevent vision loss. This means controlling your blood glucose, eating healthy, maintaining an active lifestyle, and checking you vision at least every week in both eyes.
If you experience any vision problems, CALL YOUR EYE DOCTOR PROMPTLY.
If you have DR or DME, vision loss can be sudden, but it can also be “on and off.” You may start seeing blind spots—areas where your vision is blocked—which may clear temporarily. DO NOT IGNORE THIS. If you do not get treatment, your vision may become damaged permanently. You may also experience blurry vision, or colors may look “washed out” or faded. Go see an eye care professional at the first sign of any of these symptoms.
Your optometrist, ophthalmologist or retina specialist will test you for DR and DME.
If you have vision symptoms, find an optometrist, ophthalmologist or retina specialist to test you for Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema using an OCT (Ocular Coherence Tomography) device to look at your retina.
If you have DR or DME, you can SAVE YOUR VISION by getting treatment!
If signs of diabetic retinopathy or diabetic macular edema are found, you can be treated. People aged ten or older with type 1 diabetes should get their first comprehensive eye exam within five years of developing diabetes, and should continue getting exams each year. Anyone with type 2 diabetes should have their first comprehensive eye exam as soon as they find out they have diabetes.
Learn how to save your vision in the TREAT SECTION!
If you do have diabetic retinopathy or diabetic macular edema, you can still manage these conditions and protect your vision with early treatment. Without early treatment, diabetic retinopathy and DME can cause severe vision loss, including blindness. Read on to learn how to save your vision!