By: Dr. Fred K. Lee, O.D.
Diabetes can lead to damage to the sensory tissue that covers the back of the eye, aka the retina, leading to diabetic retinopathy. In fact, diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the United States.
However, the good news is that early blindness due to diabetic retinopathy can be preventable with annual diabetic eye examinations and treatment of the underlying diabetic condition.
There are several introductory signs and symptoms that a patient may experience. The following are potential warning signs of diabetic retinopathy.
Generalized blurred vision and/or intermittently blurred vision.
- If a diabetic patient’s vision is fluctuating even shortly after receiving an updated set of prescription glasses, diabetic changes may be the culprit. Changes in blood sugar levels lead directly to changes in a diabetic patient’s vision, so it is extremely important to maintain consistently healthy blood sugar levels.
- It is possible that a patient may experience blurred vision as well as changes in their night vision over time. This may be due to a diabetic cataract formation.
A dark, empty or blurry spot that occurs in the central vision of a diabetic patient.
- As there is more fluid and blood that enters retinal tissues, all areas of the retina may be damaged. Blood or fluid may enter the area of the retina that controls central vision, the macula, leading to diabetic macular edema.
- As this condition affects central vision, it must be addressed and treated in a prompt manner.
Seeing red in your vision.
- This likely means that newly formed blood vessels have leaked into the vitreous gel that fills the eye. The blood stops light from reaching the retina and can hinder eye care providers from seeing past the vitreous to the retina.
- This condition is known as a vitreous hemorrhage. Symptoms include loss of vision, sensitivity to light, or floaters in milder cases.
- This complication can resolve itself if the retina remains undamaged. However, this should be addressed by a retinal specialist to ensure there are no underlying retinal complications.
Finally, one can experience complete and total loss of vision.
- Uncontrolled fluid leakage and hemorrhaging can lead to the retina separating from the eye itself. This condition is known as a retinal detachment, which if left untreated, can lead to complete loss of vision.
- A retinal detachment may be accompanied by seeing bright flashes of light in one’s field of vision and the presence of floaters, and/or a black curtain coming over their vision from any direction.
- If these symptoms are experienced by a diabetic patient, immediate attention by an eye care professional is warranted.
Annual eye examinations are important and necessary for all people, but are especially important for people who have diabetes. Despite people with diabetes being more likely than the general population to have vision loss, if these signs and symptoms are caught early the chance for complete vision loss and/or blindness is drastically reduced. If you are experiencing any of the above signs, please call and schedule an appointment with Optometry at (405) 948-4900 ext. 390.