Keeping an Eye on Diabetes

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The FDA recently announced its approval of Lucentis as a treatment for diabetic retinopathy in people with diabetic macular edema. Lucentis is the first-ever eye medicine approved to treat diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a long-term complication that stems from high blood sugars damaging the blood vessels in the retina (the back part of the eye that responds to light and is necessary for good vision).

The FDA’s announcement goes further than a drug approval but shifts our focus once again to the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults – Diabetes.

“As an optometrist some of our patients will ultimately need these treatments. However, from our perspective, we can try to help our patients prevent the need for these injections,” said Jeffry D. Gerson, O.D., VSP® Vision Care provider in Kansas City. “For instance, discussing A1C and A1C goals, routine eye care and good overall diabetes care, we may be able to help patients not suffer as many of the potentials problems that may go along with diabetes.”

The A1C test is a common blood test used to diagnose type 1 and type 2 diabetes and then to gauge how well you’re managing your diabetes. Eye care is especially important for people with diabetes, because they are at increased risk of developing eye complications from the disease.

“Sometimes patients won’t even know what A1C is. This is an opportunity for optometrists to help patients better understand the disease. Often times, we have been seeing patient for years, and may have a better relationship with them than their Primary Care Physician or endocrinologist. Therefore, spending a few minutes explaining and consulting with the patient can be an invaluable experience for them,” said Gerson.

People living with diabetes should take precautions to help reduce their risk of developing eye problems. This includes:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Exercising regularly
  • Maintaining control of your blood glucose levels
  • Keeping your blood pressure under control. High blood pressure by itself can lead to eye disease. Experiencing both can put you at a greater risk.
  • Keeping your blood cholesterol levels under control
  • Scheduling regular appointments with your eye doctor to ensure any problem is detected and treated early on

“When asking about A1C, it is important to make sure that patients know the pertinence to them and their eyes. For example, the DCCT and UKPDS studies were groundbreaking in that they showed that regardless of whether somebody has type 1 or type 2 diabetes, better control from the onset is rewarded with fewer complications.  Among the complications that can be prevented or tempered are diabetic retinopathy and the potential of vision loss,” said Gerson.

Everyone regardless of the current state of their vision should visit an optometrist at least once a year. Patients with diabetes should receive a dilated eye exam on an annual basis. Having your regular doctor look at your eyes is not enough. Only optometrists and ophthalmologists can detect the signs of retinopathy.

If diabetic patients experience any of the following symptoms, you are advised to see an optometrist immediately:

  • one or both of your eyes hurt
  • your eyes get red and stay that way
  • you feel pressure in your eye
  • Seeing spots or floaters
  • straight lines do not look straight
  • blurry vision
  • you have trouble reading signs or books
  • Seeing double
  • you can’t see things at the side as you used to

“Patients with diabetes fear the loss of vision more than any other potential complication. This is why sometimes we as optometrist can have a significant impact on a person’s habits than anybody else.  We can let people know that A1C is a number that is an indicator of quality of life, and that the quality of their vision ultimately depends on it,” said Gerson.

2 Comments

  • Richard Hitt says:

    I want you to thank you for this information concerning diabetes and how it can effects the eyes. I was recently diagnose as type 2 Diabetic. This information gave me the insight to understand upon what occurres when my A1C levels are to high and what can happen to my eyes. You gave me the importance of controlling
    My sugar levels. Thanks again.

  • Jordan says:

    Great article here. It’s so important for people with diabetes to consider the health of their whole body, not just what their blood sugar level is. Eye health is crucial! Thanks for sharing.

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