November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month. The purpose is to increase awareness of diabetes and diabetic eye disease and encourage diabetics to get treatment for vision problems.
According to Prevent Blindness America, diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults. All people with diabetes are at risk for vision loss and blindness from diabetic eye disease. Moreover, the highest risk populations are African Americans, Hispanics, Latinos, and older adults with diabetes.
November: Diabetic Eye Disease Comes In Different Forms
The primary vision problem caused by diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. This is the leading cause of new cases of blindness and low vision in adults aged 20-65.Diabetic retinopathy occurs when there is damage to the small blood vessels that nourish tissue and nerve cells in the retina. There are four stages to this disease:
- Mild non-proliferative retinopathy: At this early stage, small areas of balloon-like swelling occur in the retina’s tiny blood vessels.
- Moderate non-proliferative retinopathy: As the disease progresses, some blood vessels that nourish the retina become blocked.
- Severe non-proliferative retinopathy: Many more blood vessels become blocked, which disrupts the blood supply that nourishes the retina. The damaged retina then signals the body to produce new blood vessels.
- Proliferative retinopathy: At this advanced stage, signals sent by the retina trigger the development of new blood vessels that grow in the retina and the vitreous. The vitreous is a transparent gel that fills the interior of the eye. Because these new blood vessels are abnormal, they can rupture and bleed, causing hemorrhages in the retina. Scar tissue can develop and can tug at the retina, causing more damage and even retinal detachment.
November: How To Diagnose Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetic retinopathy usually has no early warning signs. It can be detected only through a comprehensive eye examination that looks for these symptoms:
- Leaking blood vessels
- Pale, fatty deposits on the retina
- Damaged nerve tissue
- Any changes to the retinal blood vessels
Accurate diagnosis requires a comprehensive eye examination that includes the following procedures:
- Distance and near vision acuity tests
- A dilated eye examination, which includes the use of an ophthalmoscope. The pupil is and this allows the examiner to see through the pupil to the retina.
- A tonometry test to measure fluid pressure inside the eye.
- The fluorescein angiography test, if swelling is suspected.
- An optical coherence tomography (OCT) test to get a clearer picture of the retina and its supporting layers. This imaging technology produces high-resolution cross-sectional and three-dimensional images of the eye.
Visual Acuity Testing
Visual acuity testing helps determine the sharpness of both your near (reading) and distance vision.
This includes testing your vision with different lenses to determine if your vision can be improved or corrected with regular glasses or contact lenses.
Visual Field Testing
Visual field testing helps determine how much peripheral vision you have and how much surrounding area you can see.
The most common type of visual field test in a comprehensive eye exam is called a confrontation field test, in which the doctor briefly flashes several fingers in each of the four quadrants (above, below, right, and left) of your visual field while seated opposite you.