You’ve been told you have diabetes, but what can that mean for your eyes? Diabetes can start to affect your eyes without you even noticing any vision changes. Your eye doctor will dilate your eyes at your annual checkup and look for signs of any retinal bleeding or swelling. These are signs of Diabetic Retinopathy.
There are different levels of diabetic changes in your eyes, and some of them lead to vision loss. It is important to have annual exams if you’re diabetic to check for these signs. If your doctor finds more advanced stages, you may need to come back more often. When it becomes more noticeable your vision may become blurry, and it can even fluctuate due to changes in your blood sugar levels.
One-third of people with diabetes will have some level of diabetic retinopathy. One-third of those with diabetic retinopathy have vision-threatening changes. This means that around 1 in 5 people will have diabetic retinopathy and not even know it.
You are more likely to have diabetic retinopathy if you’ve had diabetes for over 10 years, this includes type 1 and type 2. You are also more likely to have retinopathy if you have high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, are a smoker, have a high A1C, or are Hispanic, American Indian, or African American.
If you show signs of diabetic retinopathy, treatment may improve your vision, but it isn’t always reversible. That’s why it’s important to continue to monitor your health with your primary care physician and your eye doctor.
If you are diabetic and haven’t had an exam in a while, call your doctor to schedule an appointment.