Did you know that your optometrist can spot the early signs of Diabetes when conducting a comprehensive eye exam? It’s true!
Over the course of the next nine years, 6.4 million Canadians will be diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. What’s more, one third of Canadians today already have diabetes or prediabetes and many don’t know it.
Many people don’t realize that regular eye examinations by a qualified optometrist can help in both the early detection and management of Diabetes. This is true for both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes.
Read more about how our team of optometrists can help you take positive action to take the best possible care of your eyes: Diabetes and Your Eyes.
Diabetes increases the risk of early onset cataracts, doubles the risk of developing glaucoma and is a significant risk for vision loss. There is no time like the present to have your eyes checked!
If you’re one of more than 3 million Canadians living with Diabetes, or you have risk factors for the disease, you should know more about Diabetic retinopathy.
As we pointed out in our previous post on Diabetes Awareness Month, it’s essential to stay in top of your health with regular comprehensive eye exams.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that prevents your body from making or using insulin, which in turn leads to increased sugar levels in your bloodstream, known as high blood sugar.
How does diabetes affect the eye?
Diabetes and its complications can affect many parts of the eye. Diabetes can cause changes in nearsightedness, farsightedness and premature presbyopia (the inability to focus on close objects). It can result in cataracts, glaucoma, paralysis of the nerves that control the eye muscles or pupil, and decreased corneal sensitivity.
Visual symptoms of diabetes include fluctuating or blurring of vision, occasional double vision, loss of visual field, and flashes and floaters within the eyes. Sometimes these early signs of diabetes are first detected in a thorough examination performed by a doctor of optometry. The most serious eye problem associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy.
What is retinopathy?
Over time diabetes can cause changes in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when there is a weakening or swelling of the tiny blood vessels that feed the retina of your eye, resulting in blood leakage, the growth of new blood vessels and other changes.
When retinopathy advances, the decreased circulation of the blood vessels deprives areas of the retina of oxygen. Blood vessels become blocked or closed, and parts of the retina die. New, abnormal, blood vessels grow to replace the old ones. If diabetic retinopathy is left untreated, blindness can result.
Can vision loss from diabetes be prevented?
Yes, in a routine eye examination, your optometrist can diagnose potential vision threatening changes in your eye that may be treated to prevent blindness. However, once damage has occurred, the effects are usually permanent. It is important to control your diabetes as much as possible to minimize your risk of developing retinopathy.
How is diabetic retinopathy treated?
In the early stages, diabetic retinopathy is monitored through eye health examinations. If necessary, it may be treated with intraocular injections of anti-VEGF therapy (Lucentis, Avastin) or laser therapy. A bright beam of light is focused on the retina, causing a laser burn that seals off leaking blood vessels. In other cases, retinal surgery may be necessary. Early detection of diabetic retinopathy is crucial, as treatment is much more likely to be successful at an early stage.
Are there risk factors for developing diabetic retinopathy?
Several factors that increase the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy include smoking, high blood pressure, drinking alcohol and pregnancy.
How can diabetes-related eye problems be prevented?
Monitor and maintain control of your diabetes. See your physician regularly and follow instructions about diet, exercise and medication. See your doctor of optometry for a thorough eye examination when you are first diagnosed with diabetes, at least annually thereafter and more frequently if recommended.
Take the diabetes risk test
The Canadian Diabetes Association is asking Canadians to reduce the risks to their health and take The CANRISK Test, which helps to identify risk levels for Type 2 Diabetes.
Book your next eye exam
Nearly 3.3 million individuals in Canada live with Diabetes. Type 2 Diabetes is the most common form of the disease, accounting for nine out of ten cases, with trends predicted to increase dramatically in the next few years.
Many Canadians are unaware of the risks to their eyes with Diabetes. The Canadian Diabetes Association explains these risks:
“Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness in Canada. People with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts at a younger age and are twice as likely to develop glaucoma, but diabetes’ effect on the retina is the main threat to vision.”
A comprehensive eye exam is your best defense. It can lead to early detection of both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, and can also help to reveal the effects of poor disease management in individuals living with Diabetes. This, in turn, can lead to helpful lifestyle and dietary changes, better treatment compliance, or important changes to medication.
Did you know that a comprehensive eye exam reveals a great deal more than a standard sight test?
Sight test or screening test (performed by a non-doctor): Only measures how well you can see. The individual performing the test is not trained or licensed to test or diagnose the eyes.
Comprehensive eye exam (performed by optometrist or ophthalmologist): Only an eye doctor can conduct a comprehensive eye exam. A high-powered microscope is used to examine the tiny structures inside of your eyes, including a close-up look at your blood vessels, optic nerves, and other complex eye structures, all of which may contain clues to conditions that could pose a serious risk to your health, such as Diabetes.
There really is no comparison!
A doctor of optometry is able to identify underlying health conditions or issues that are frequently detected first through an eye exam. Optometrists can provide referrals to specialists and other healthcare professionals.
We recommend annual eye exams for everyone, but they are particularly critical for individuals living with Diabetes. In our next post, we’ll delve into Diabetic Retinopathy, and how your optometrist can help you avoid this complication of living with Diabetes.
Ready to schedule your next eye exam?