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Keeping an Eye on Diabetes

Keeping an eye on diabetes

The eye is a window to diabetes and other diseases within the body.  The prevalence of diabetes is rapidly increasing, and is the leading cause of blindness and vision in working people 25 – 65 years of age.

Diabetes damages the walls of the fine blood vessels within your retina, which is the nerve tissue at the back of your eye that senses light and translates it into vision.  The retina is approximately the thickness of your fingernail.  Blood sugar can readily enter the retina without needing insulin, so if blood sugar is too high, this is toxic to retinal tissue and can cause diabetic retinopathy (DR).  This damage will simultaneously occur in the fine blood vessels of kidneys and other parts of the body.

Many people with Diabetic Retinopathy have NO early symptoms.  One can have 20/20 vision and no pain, but still have DR. Often when a person notices vision loss from DR, the disease has reached an advanced stage and can be difficult to treat.   Diabetes can also increase risk of glaucoma and cataracts.

A thorough eye exam (that includes dilating the pupils for a complete retina exam) can detect these problems before they affect vision.  A diabetic can minimize the effects on the eyes by maintaining tight blood sugar control.  The good news is that when you take the right steps to manage diabetes, this also helps control high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Dr. Dianna Leong is on a national diabetes committee to promote awareness and better diabetes control.  She offers a free monthly diabetic clinic in which diabetics have an eye exam, a retinal photo, then and free personal consultation with a certified diabetic educator/ pharmacist, in which a specific plan is provided on taking control of your health.    Medicare covers the cost of the eye exam, as this is less tax payer dollars than attempting to repair the damage by surgery on eyes, or kidney dialysis and transplant.  If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with diabetes, take a moment to focus on your eyes!   No referral is needed to see your optometrist.