Common Forms of Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetic eye disease encompasses several different eye conditions that can occur in any person who has diabetes. Some diabetics may not develop any of these common eye diseases, while others may develop more than one. Prompt treatment of eye disease symptoms may reduce the risk of developing severe vision problems or blindness.
The most common eye disease affecting individuals with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. This disease occurs when the blood vessels inside the retina undergo damaging changes, including developing abnormally on the retina’s surface. When the vessels become inflamed, they can leak fluid into the eye and cause vision obstruction. The beginning symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include noticeable vision changes that can eventually lead to total loss of vision.
Individuals with diabetes should undergo comprehensive eye examinations annually. Treatment options differ, depending on the type and stage of diabetic retinopathy. Common treatment options include:
- Focal laser treatment (laser treatments to prevent retinal leakage)
- Vitrectomy (surgical removal of excessive blood in the eye)
- Medication (injections of steroids, ranibizumab or bevacizumab)
- Scatter laser treatment (laser treatment targeting abnormal blood vessels)
If treatment is not received, vision could continue to worsen rapidly until patients experience total blindness.
While glaucoma is not unique to diabetics, it is a common complication of the disease. When pressure inside the eye is increased due to diabetes, it can lead to glaucoma, which damages the optic nerve and can lead to blindness over time.
The goal of glaucoma treatment is to relieve pressure within the eye, especially on the optic nerve. This may be accomplished with laser surgery, eye drops, medication or a combination of the three.
It is not uncommon for people to develop cataracts (clouding in the lens of the eye) as they grow older, but people with diabetes often develop this condition at a much younger age. This condition can be treated with special glasses or surgery.
Prompt treatment of diabetic eye disease is important if individuals want to keep their vision clear for as long as possible.