Diabetic Eye Care

Ophthalmologists play a particularly important role in both the detection and management of diabetes. Because diabetes can affect the eye in a number of ways, the ophthalmologist may be the first physician to suspect the disease. Once the diagnosis has been established, regular eye examinations are key to preventing vision loss.

A common symptom of undiagnosed or poorly controlled diabetes is fluctuation in vision. The reason for this is that changing levels of blood sugar cause the lens in the eye to change its shape, making the eye temporarily more or less near or far sighted. At Ophthalmology Associates we are trained to think of diabetes when unexpected changes in refractive error occur. If diabetes is suspected we will refer you to your internist for proper evaluation and have you return to recheck for glasses once the blood sugar level (and thus the glasses prescription) has stabilized.

Diabetes can also affect the eyes by causing the early development of cataracts.. There is a particular type of cataract that is associated with diabetes, and in some cases, the ophthalmologist may be the first physician to see this and consider the diagnosis. At Ophthalmology Associates we are very experienced at diagnosing and treating this condition.

Diabetic retinopathy, perhaps the most feared complication of diabetes, is caused by damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. (Though known primarily as a disease of blood sugar control, diabetes over time often causes changes in the small blood vessels throughout the body. That is why it also frequently affects the kidneys, the brain and the peripheral circulation). In the eyes the blood vessel damage results in small hemorrhages within the retina and leakage of fluid from the blood vessels into the retina. In some cases this leakage may be severe and affect the central vision. In other cases, the retina does not receive enough oxygen and abnormal new blood vessels may begin to grow. This can cause extensive scarring and bleeding into the eye. Fortunately, diabetic retinopathy can be effectively treated in most cases with a variety of laser treatments and medications. It is absolutely crucial, however, that early diagnosis be made. For this reason, at Ophthalmology Associates, we maintain a rigorous schedule of follow-up for all diabetic patients. By doing so we maximize the chance of early detection and prompt treatment of our patients.

It is important to note that all diabetics, whether type I, type II, pregnancy-induced, well-controlled, or poorly-controlled are at risk for the complications of diabetes. Therefore, regular eye exams are absolutely essential for all such patients.