Diabetic Retinopathy in Brunswick, Jesup, and St Marys, GA
Diabetes is a chronic health condition that makes it difficult to control your blood sugar, which tends to cause blood sugar levels to stay too high. This can lead to widespread inflammation in the body and damage various tissues and organs—including the eyes.
At Vision Source Family Eye Care, our optometrists Dr. Ian Buchli and Dr. Glen Knezich have extensive training and experience in the diagnosis, treatment, management, and prevention of the most common diabetes-related eye disorder, known as diabetic retinopathy.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy develops when blood vessels behind the retina become blocked and damaged due to chronically high blood sugar. As these small blood vessels become damaged they begin to leak fluids. This can lead to scarring and damage on the retinas themselves and ultimately contribute to vision loss.
In the late stages of diabetic retinopathy, we may see new blood vessels growing behind the retinas. This is the body’s way of trying to replace previously damaged blood vessels. However, these new blood vessels often develop abnormally and may leak fluids, too, which can further damage the retinas.
5 Fast Facts About Diabetic Retinopathy, Diabetes, and Eye Health
About 4.1 million people older than 40 have diabetic retinopathy in the United States.
Not everyone with diabetes will develop diabetic retinopathy. The risk goes up for anyone who smokes, has poor control of their diabetes, has additional health conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and pregnancy, or has had diabetes for a long time. People with diabetes who are African-American, Hispanic, or Native American also appear more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy.
You likely won’t notice diabetic retinopathy early on. As it gets worse over time, signs and symptoms may develop, including blurry vision, decreased color vision, and the appearance of “floaters.” Diabetic retinopathy can lead to complete blindness in advanced stages. Untreated diabetic retinopathy may also increase the risk of other complications, including retinal detachment, which is considered a medical emergency.
Sometimes, an optometrist is the first health provider to detect diabetes. This is because eye doctors can detect early signs of diabetic retinopathy on a comprehensive eye exam, even before symptoms develop. Here’s why this matters: according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 5 people with diabetes don’t even know they have it.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss in people who have diabetes. But diabetes also increases the risk of cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and some other vision problems.
Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment Options With Our Brunswick Optometrist Staff
Vision loss from diabetic retinopathy can be permanent. The good news: according to the National Eye Institute, early detection, and treatment of diabetic retinopathy, as well as ongoing follow-up care with an optometrist, can reduce the risk of blindness by as much as 95 percent!
If you have diabetes, we recommend seeing an eye doctor at least once a year for a comprehensive eye exam. During these exams, our eye doctors use a range of tests to evaluate our patients’ eye health and check for early signs of diabetic retinopathy.
For people with diabetes, our doctors will use a special type of eye drop to open (dilate) the pupils. This allows us to see inside the eyes better. This process is completely painless, but it will make your vision blurry for a little while until the effects wear off, so it’s helpful to have a ride home from our office.
Once a diagnosis is made, we make recommendations that can protect eyesight and slow disease progression, including:
Medications injected into the eye to prevent additional blood vessel growth
Prescription eyeglasses to compensate for existing vision loss
Lifestyle strategies, patient education, and referrals to other providers to improve the management of diabetes and other underlying medical conditions
Low vision strategies and tools
Are You Living With Diabetes?
If you are living with diabetes, it’s never too early to establish a relationship with an eye doctor you can trust to monitor and support your eye health. Call Vision Source Family Eye Care today to connect with a friendly and knowledgeable eye doctor in Brunswick, Jesup, or St. Marys GA. You can also schedule an appointment with us online.