How can diabetes affect my eye health?
Diabetes can take a toll on your health in various ways — it affects your heart, kidneys, peripheral nerves, skin, and, yes, your eyes. Diabetes can damage blood vessels all over your body. And the blood vessels in your eyes are no exception.
What is diabetic macular edema and diabetic retinopathy?
In people with diabetes, too much blood sugar can damage the tiny blood vessels at the back inner wall of the eye, called the retina, or block those vessels completely. This condition is called diabetic retinopathy. Tiny bulges, called microaneurysms, form in the blood vessels, leaking fluid into the retina. The fluid can cause swelling in a part of the retina called the macula. This serious eye problem is diabetic macular edema. It can cause vision problems or even blindness.
Watch the video below to learn more about Macular Edema:
How will I know if I have diabetic macular edema?
In the early stages, you probably won’t notice any changes in your vision. However, an eye care specialist can spot early signs of macular edema with regular retina screenings.
If the condition progresses, you may experience symptoms like:
- Blurry vision or double vision
- Difficulty seeing colors
- Dark spots (scotomas)
- Straight lines that you see as bent or curved
- Difficulty seeing when there’s a glare or bright light
- Seeing an object as being a different size when you look at it with only one eye and then the other
Watch to learn the importance of getting regular eye exams:
Did you know that patients with diabetes can receive eye injections for treatment?
Eye injections can be used as a treatment for a variety of different things, but they are most commonly used to treat diabetic macular edema and diabetic retinopathy. Keep reading for further details on this treatment method.
How is diabetic macular edema treated?
Treatments for diabetes-related macular edema have come a long way. Historically, laser treatments have been used for diabetic macular edema, but today, eye injections are more common to control the condition. For some patients, injections can reverse their symptoms and improve their vision.
How do the eye injections work?
A trained retina specialist delivers these medications. The medication is carefully injected into the part of your eye called the vitreous humor, which is the gel-like substance between your eye’s lens and your retina.
When you receive injections in your eye, your eye doctor will:
- Put numbing medicine on your eye to make you more comfortable during the injection
- Clean your eyes to help prevent infections
- Put the medicine in your eye with a very small needle and a syringe
Injections don’t change your vision right away. Most people can go back to their normal activities right after the treatment.
You may have short-term side effects, but they should clear up in a day or two. You may feel some irritation in your eye caused by the antiseptic used to clean it or possibly see floating air bubbles — which look similar to floaters. Contact your eye doctor right away if you have pain or vision problems that are getting worse after an injection.
How often do I have to receive the injections?
Injections aren’t a cure for diabetes-related macular edema. But used consistently, they can help people maintain their vision and could potentially reverse some vision loss. How often and how many injections you’ll need depends on the severity of your condition.
What can I do to protect my vision?
If you have diabetes, the doctors at Northwest Eye recommend protecting your vision by:
- Keeping your diabetes and related conditions managed
- Seeing an ophthalmologist annually
Keeping your blood sugar at a healthy level typically includes a combination of medications, diet, exercise, and, if indicated, insulin. An endocrinologist or other physician who specializes in diabetes management can help you find a plan that works for you.
Managing any other conditions that arise as a result of diabetes is important as well. Work with your healthcare team to prevent and care for conditions that are often associated with diabetes, including obesity, kidney disease, heart disease, sleep disorders, and more.
Our partner, Minnesota Retina Associates, can assist patients in need of medical retina care. With three convenient locations (Bloomington, Golden Valley, and Hutchinson), the specialists at Minnesota Retina Associates are happy to answer any questions you have about macular edema and injections.
To schedule an appointment with Minnesota Retina Associates, call 612-355-6510 or visit their website below.
Sources: American Academy of Ophthalmology, Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Minnesota Retina Associates, National Eye Institute, Northwest Eye