Diabetes and Your Vision
Diabetes is a part of many Canadians’ lives – with one in three Canadians estimated to have diabetes or prediabetes conditions. In fact, according to a 2019 Diabetes Model, Canadians over the age of 20 today have a 50% likelihood of developing diabetes within their lifetime. To raise awareness for this disease, November has been named Diabetes Awareness Month.
Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye conditions that commonly affect people with diabetes. These related conditions can cause sudden or gradual loss of vision that can be permanent.
Early detection and, preferably, prevention is the key to managing the effects of the conditions associated with diabetic eye disease. For those who have a diagnosis of diabetes, there are many ways to help prevent or to mitigate the chances of developing associated eye disease.
Diabetic Eye Disease
There are several key eye conditions that are most associated with diabetes. These include:
- Diabetic Retinopathy, which is the primary cause of blindness in adults that affects 1 in 20 people with diabetes. Some of the signs of diabetic retinopathy include seeing small black spots, fluctuating, or blurred vision.
- Diabetic macular edema (DME) is caused by leaking blood vessels in the eye that lead to fluid accumulation and photoreceptor disruption in the area of the macula, which is responsible for detailed, central vision and color perception. DME can have a significant effect on daily living activities such as driving, reading, or preparing meals.
- Glaucoma is most often caused by elevated eye pressure that progressively damages the optic nerve, which can lead to blindness.
- Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s crystalline lens and can result in blurred or cloudy vision. High blood glucose levels affect the eye’s crystalline lens, causing it to lose its natural transparency.
Prevention – the Best Medicine
The best way to prevent diabetic eye diseases is by strictly controlling one’s blood glucose levels. Some of the key factors to effectively limit diabetes-related vision loss includes:
Having yearly eye health exams.
Maintaining normal blood glucose levels.
Controlling blood pressure & cholesterol levels.
Taking supplements containing carotenoids (see Early Defence Vitamins).
Following your physician or endocrinologist’s medication schedule.
Maintaining a healthy diet.
Diabetic Eye Disease Screening
Apart from prevention, early detection is key to limiting diabetic eye disease. An annual comprehensive eye exam at least once per year is advised for all diabetic patients and expectant mothers with gestational diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy typically goes unnoticed until vision loss occurs, so it is essential that patients maintain a schedule of annual eye health exams to detect early changes, even in the absence of symptoms.
A regular diabetic eye exam allows the doctor to screen for the common signs & symptoms related to diabetic eye disease, including:
Monitoring a patient’s refractive error and best-corrected visual acuity.
Checking for corneal nerve damage or dry eye disease.
Identifying the presence of leaking blood vessels.
Identifying edema within the macula.
Assessing for the presence of cataracts.
Monitoring eye pressure.
Introducing the EyeArt® A.I. Eye Screening System: an FDA approved diabetic retinopathy screening system that leverages the capabilities of artificial intelligence to provide a robust diabetic retinopathy assessment. This system uses a digital fundus camera to acquire retinal images of the eye and then uses powerful deep learning and image analysis algorithms to automatically assess image quality and detect signs of the disease. It has been tested on over half a million patient visits globally with over two million images collected in real-world clinical environments.
The EyeArt® A.I. Eye Screening System is the first FDA cleared A.I. technology for autonomous detection of vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy and the first Health Canada licensed A.I. technology for automated diabetic retinopathy detection.
Treating Diabetic Eye Disease
Sometimes the vision loss and damage can be irreversible. However, if proper screening is done and if the diseases are identified early, there is a higher likelihood of treatment success.
Some treatment types include:
- Anti-VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor) Injection Therapy can help prevent the growth and leakage of abnormal blood vessels (neovascularization).
- Laser therapy can be used in conjunction with, or instead of, anti-VEGF injections. It involves applying small laser spots to the surface of the retina, to destroy abnormal blood vessels and remove the stimulus for their growth.
- Surgery: which may include vitrectomy to remove the platform for abnormal vessel growth, or cataract extraction, when the eye’s intraocular lens has become cloudy (the most common cataract types related to diabetes are cortical and posterior subcapsular cataracts).
To learn more about this topic, visit diabetic eye disease. Ask us about our carotenoid supplement for the prevention of retinal oxidative damage and improved visual function.
Book Your Comprehensive Exam Now: Contact us for a comprehensive diabetic eye exam and protect your most valuable sense!
We are advancing our ability to screen for diabetic eye disease by being the first in Canada to employ the EyeArt® A.I. Eye Screening System as part of our diabetic eye health exam. Contact us to learn more and register here to become a new patient.