Is someone you know at risk for diabetic vision loss?

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By Cheryl L. Dejewski

With diabetes at epidemic levels, you probably know (or are) one of the 34.2 million Americans with the disease. Whether or not the cause is lifestyle (poor diet, lack of exercise), genetics or both, know that diabetes does more than affect blood sugar. Without proper precautions, it can lead to nerve damage; amputation of a limb; heart and kidney disease and vision loss. Blindness is the most feared complication of diabetics. And, if you’re black, you’re up to three times more likely to lose your sight to diabetes than a white person.

“We encourage members of the black community to challenge the statistics by educating themselves about the importance of early detection and treatment,” says Mark Freedman, MD, senior partner at Eye Care Specialists, a leading ophthalmology firm who have served the vision care needs of more than 185,000 Wisconsin residents since 1985. To help our readers protect their vision, their team is answering the following questions.

How Does Diabetes Steal Vision?

“With diabetes, fluctuating and high blood sugar levels can weaken or cause abnormalities in the blood vessels that nourish the retina at the back of the eye. This retinal disease or ‘retinopathy’ causes leaks and leaks. bleeding that can blur vision and permanently impair vision. reports Brett Rhode, MD, chief ophthalmologist at Aurora Sinai Medical Center and partner at Eye Care Specialists, an ophthalmology practice specializing in the care of diabetic patients. With the increasing prevalence of diabetes, diabetic retinopathy is now the leading cause of blindness in working-age Americans. ”

Is retinopathy the only visual risk?

“Besides causing damage to the retina, diabetes dramatically increases the risk of other eye problems. It doubles the likelihood of developing cataracts, a clouding of the lens inside the eye that blurs vision and requires surgical removal and implantation with a lens implant to repair. Diabetics are also twice as likely to develop glaucoma, a disease in which increased fluid pressure in the eye damages the optic nerve, resulting in permanent loss of side vision (and possibly all of it), ”explains Freedman.

What are the symptoms?

“Usually there are no early symptoms and most people don’t notice a problem with their vision until the retinopathy is so advanced that the sight loss may not be able to be restored. This is why annual dilated eye exams are crucial. In addition, call your doctor immediately if you notice vision changes in one or both eyes (not associated with blood sugar fluctuations), many floating spots (such as cobwebs), or a haze in your vision ” says David Scheidt, OD, optometrist and consultant for the original Wisconsin Diabetes Advisory Group guidelines.

How is diabetic eye disease diagnosed?

“Diabetes-related vision changes can sometimes temporarily affect vision or happen so gradually that people don’t notice or take action. But, even if a person’s vision appears to be good, serious significant damage may be present and progress. This is why diabetic eye disease can only be diagnosed by a comprehensive eye exam which includes dilating the pupil (enlargement with drops) to see better inside to check the back of the eye for the first few. signs of retinopathy, ”says Daniel Paskowitz, MD, PhD, an ophthalmologist who graduated from Harvard and Johns Hopkins.

He adds, “Diabetes-related sight loss is often preventable with blood sugar control, annual check-ups and early intervention. But all of our expertise, equipment, and treatments are of no use if patients don’t come for regular eye exams.

Are you at risk?

“Diabetic eye disease can start as early as a year after the onset of diabetes, and up to 45% of people with diabetes have some degree of retinopathy (retinal damage),” says Daniel Ferguson, MD, partner at Eye Care Specialists, where tens of thousands of diabetic patients receive comprehensive care. “All diabetics, type 1, type 2, insulin-dependent or not, are at risk, which increases with the number of years of diabetes. And, because blacks have up to three times the risk of developing diabetes than whites, the threat of vision loss is that much higher. This is why we cannot overstate the benefits of annual eye exams for sight.

What treatment is available?

“When treatment is needed, we are very happy with the success of drugs (such as Avastin, Eylea and Lucentis) that can be painlessly injected into the eye to reduce blood vessel leaks and inhibit new abnormal growth, preventing thus the progression of diabetes. eye disease. We assess the response of each patient individually to determine if and when (approximately every 4 to 12 weeks) they should receive injections. As a result, we have seen amazing results, including not only stabilizing vision, but in some cases improving eyesight, ”reports ophthalmologist Michael Raciti, MD, a local leader in the fight against diabetic eye diseases.

Should you be screened for diabetic eye disease?

Do you have diabetes? Was it over a year since your last eye exam? If you can answer “Yes” to both of these questions, then it is time to get your vision checked. Keep in mind that appointments are often covered by insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. If these options do not apply, arrangements can usually be made to accept payments by cash, check, credit card, or finance plan. ” Do not hesitate. This is your opportunity to make sure that you are seeing life to the fullest, now and in the future. And, remember, EVERYBODY should have their eyes checked every two years after the age of 40 for other conditions, like glaucoma, which can cause permanent vision loss without you even realizing it. account, ”advises Freedman.

FREE brochures and information

Eye Care Specialist Physicians are dedicated to providing the highest quality medical, surgical and laser eye care services. They are honored that their team members are named “Top Physicians” by Milwaukee and MKElifestyle magazines. They also frequently provide continuing education to their physician colleagues and have written their own series of brochures on cataracts, glaucoma, diabetes, dry eye and macular degeneration (AMD). Call 414-321-7035 and leave a message for FREE copies. Full reviews and second opinions are available at their offices on 6th & Wisconsin Ave., Mayfair Road across from the Mall, and 102nd & National Ave in West Allis.

For more information on eye diseases and their references, visit www.eyecarespecialists.net.


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