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People who have diabetes must be vigilant about their eyes. Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults between the ages of 20 and 74 years, and 45 percent of patients with diabetes develop diabetic eye disease, which can lead to severe vision loss or even blindness, according to www.DiabetesSightRisk.com. One complication of diabetes that affects the eyes is diabetic retinopathy. In this condition, blood vessels become blocked and prevents areas of.....

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People who have diabetes must be extra vigilant about their eyes. Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults between the ages of 20 and 74, and 45 percent of patients with diabetes develop diabetic eye disease, which can lead to severe vision loss or even blindness, according to www.DiabetesSightRisk.com. One diabetic complication that affects the eyes is diabetic retinopathy, in which blood vessels become blocked and prevent areas of the retina from receiving blood and nutrients. This can lead to diabetic macular edema, which occurs when the damaged blood vessels leak fluid into the macula.


To keep tabs on possible diabetic eye disease, patients with diabetes are encouraged to get a dilated eye exam every year. This type of exam can often detect problems a regular vision test cannot. Your eye doctor will put drops in your eyes to dilate and enlarge the pupils, which are the openings at the center of the iris. Enlarging your pupils allows the doctor to see more of the inside of your eyes to check for signs of disease. With a special magnifying lens, the doctor can examine the retina and optic nerve for signs of damage.


Sometimes it is necessary for you to see a retinal specialist, who will perform additional tests. Using fundus photography, the specialist will take color photographs of the retina. With fluorescein angiography, the specialist injects a dye into your arm and takes photos as the dye

passes through your eye. This test helps the specialist detect any closed, damaged or leaking blood vessels. A third special test is an imaging test called optical coherence tomography. It produces a cross section of the retina and is useful for revealing any swelling in the eye tissue.


The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders (www.niddk.nih.gov) says your eye doctor will conduct other tests to measure the pressure in your eyes; your side or peripheral vision; and how well you see at various distances. You may also need to keep seeing a general ophthalmologist or optometrist if you have other medical conditions that affect your eyes, such as glaucoma, or if you wear eyeglasses or contact lenses.


After your eyes have been dilated, your vision may be blurry for several hours and your eyes may be extra sensitive to light. This is a small inconvenience compared to the alternative of going blind. Even if your vision seems fine, regular eye exams can help you protect your vision, and a dilated eye exam could be the deciding factor in preserving your sight.

DILATED EYE EXAM IMPORTANT FOR PEOPLE WITH DIABETES

Early detection with a dilated eye exam, timely treatment and follow-up care could reduce your risk of diabetes-related blindness by 95 percent. Another way to keep your eyes healthy is to keep your blood glucose numbers as close to your targets as you can. Also, be sure to regulate your blood pressure. High blood pressure can damage the tiny blood vessels on the retina. Follow your doctor’s recommendations and take your medications as directed.

JOSEPH E. GERHARDSTEIN

Dr. Gerhardstein is a native of Fort Thomas, Ky. He is a graduate of Northern Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. He joined Family Practice Associates of Lexington in 2003. His specialty is family practice. Dr. Gerhardstein shares Nietzsche’s philosophy: “That which does not kill us only makes us stronger.”

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