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Diabetic Retinopathy

Why Are Dilated Eye Exams So Important?

Bastien & Prizant Dilated Eye Exam near you in Ottawa, Ontario

Having your eyes dilated during an eye exam may seem like a nuisance. But when you consider the benefits of a dilated eye exam, the temporary blurred vision and sensitivity to light that typically follow are definitely worth it.

What Are Dilated Eye Exams?

At some point during a comprehensive eye exam, your optometrist will shine a bright light into your eyes to examine the back of your eye, called the retina. The problem is that bright light causes the size of the pupil’s opening to shrink, which makes it hard for the optometrist to see a large portion of the retina.

That’s why eye doctors apply special eye drops in each eye to keep the pupils open. A dilated pupil allows for a much more accurate assessment of your eye’s structures, including the focusing lens, blood vessels and tissues at the back of the eye called the retina, as well as the optic nerve and macula.

Dilating the eyes makes it easier for your optometrist to detect the following conditions and diseases:

It’s important to note that many of these conditions can develop without noticeable symptoms, until they cause vision loss at which point treatment may be more challenging, making dilated eye exams all the more crucial.

The Dilation Process

First, your eye doctor will apply eye drops to each eye to trigger dilation of the pupil. Your eyes should be fully dilated about 10-20 minutes later.

Your eyes will remain dilated for 4-6 hours, and during this time you may be sensitive to light. That’s because the larger pupil allows more light than usual to enter the eye. Many patients find it more comfortable to wear sunglasses until their eyes return to normal.

Reading and using a computer may be difficult with dilated eyes, and your vision may be blurred. Some patients report feeling a tightening sensation in their eyelids, or headaches.

Dilated eye exams are a crucial part of keeping your eyes healthy. To schedule your comprehensive eye exam, call our optometry practice today!

Bastien & Prizant, your Ottawa eye doctor for eye exams and eye care

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At what age should one have a dilated eye exam?

You should have your dilated eye exam no matter your age. Most eye doctors will dilate a new patient at their first exam regardless of age to get a baseline of their retinal health.

Will I be able to return to work after a dilated eye exam?

Everyone reacts differently, so it’s hard to tell. If your job requires you to focus on small print or detail, it may be challenging. Typing and writing may also be difficult with dilated pupils. To be on the safe side, book your appointment at the end of your work day, clear your schedule after your eye exam and only plan to do activities which aren’t visually demanding.

Are You Susceptible To Vision Loss?

Ask Our Eye Doctor in Ottawa, Ontario, how To Prevent Vision Loss

Vision loss is more common than you may think! In fact, it’s among the most prevalent disabilities in adults and children. Knowing what puts you at risk of developing vision loss is important and can help you to be proactive about caring for your eyes.

Below, we’ll explore the most common causes of vision loss and the risk factors associated with each.

Spreading awareness and education about visual health is just one way that our eye doctors near you can help. To schedule your Comprehensive eye exam, call us today 613-800-5950.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases caused by a buildup of pressure within the eye. Too much inner-eye pressure can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss.

Since symptoms don’t usually manifest in the early stages of glaucoma, getting regular eye exams is all the more crucial. Advanced or rapidly progressing glaucoma can show a variety of symptoms, such as blurred vision, headache, severe eye pain and redness, seeing halos around lights, and nausea.

Risk factors for developing glaucoma include:

  • Being 60 years or older
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • African, Asian, or Hispanic descent
  • High myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness)
  • Previous eye injury or certain eye surgeries
  • Certain medications, like corticosteroids
  • Thin corneas
  • Certain medical conditions, like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and sickle-cell anemia

Cataracts

Cataracts occur when the eye’s lens becomes cloudy. A healthy lens is clear and allows light to pass through it undisturbed.

Common cataract symptoms include cloudy or blurred vision, difficulty seeing at night, light sensitivity, double vision in the affected eye, and seeing colors as faded or yellowish.

Risk factors for developing cataracts include:

  • Aging
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Smoking
  • Previous eye surgery, injury, or inflammation
  • Alcoholism
  • Extended use of corticosteroids

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

AMD is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over the age of 60. It occurs when the macula (the small central portion of the retina, which is responsible for sharp, colorful, central vision) begins to wear down.

Early stages of AMD usually go unnoticed, but later stages of the disease can produce symptoms like blurred vision, dark or blurry areas in your central vision, and problems with color perception.

There’s not yet a cure for AMD, but certain treatments can help prevent vision loss.

Risk factors for developing AMD include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Aging
  • Long-term sun exposure
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Family history of AMD
  • Light-colored eyes
  • Farsightedness

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a complication of Type 1 or 2 diabetes that affects the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye called the retina.

Initially, diabetic retinopathy shows no symptoms but can eventually lead to blindness. As it develops, it can cause increased floaters, impaired color vision, dark spots in your visual field, and blurred vision.

Risk factors for developing diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Length of time from diabetes diagnosis — the longer you’ve had it, the higher your chances of developing visual complications
  • Uncontrolled blood sugar
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol or blood pressure
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • African American, Hispanic, and Native American ethnicities
  • Family history of DR

So, what’s the bottom line?

Multiple factors contribute to eye disease and vision loss, and some may even be relevant to you. If you think you may be at risk for vision loss or experience any of the symptoms listed above, speak with your eye doctor in Ottawa as soon as possible. We also recommend you have your eyes thoroughly examined every 1-2 years, or as often as your eye doctor recommends. To schedule your comprehensive eye exam, call Bastien & Prizant today.

Book an eye exam at an eye clinic near you to learn more about your candidacy for contact lenses and which type is right for you.

Bastien & Prizant, your Ottawa eye doctor for eye exams and Contact lenses

Alternatively, book an appointment online here CLICK FOR AN APPOINTMENT

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Can blindness be prevented?

When caught early, many eye diseases can be treated to halt or slow the progression of the disease and potentially prevent vision loss. The best things you can do to preserve your vision for the long term is to lead a healthy lifestyle and make sure you undergo a comprehensive eye exam every 1-2 years.

Which eye diseases are genetically inherited?

More than 350 ocular diseases have some sort of genetic component. Certain diseases, like retinitis pigmentosa and albinism, are directly inherited through chromosomal information. In other cases, a predisposition to the disease is inherited, rather than the disease itself.

What You Should Know About Night Blindness

Our Optometrist in Ottawa, explains About The Causes of Night Blindness

Our eye doctor can help diagnose, manage and treat your night blindness so that you can enjoy being out at night again.

Here are 4 things you should know about night blindness:

The inability to see well at night can be the result of a condition such as:

  • Vitamin A Deficiency Vitamin A helps keep your cornea, the layer at the front of your eye, clear; it’s also an important component of rhodopsin, a protein that enables you to see in low light conditions. Although uncommon in North America, deficiency of this vitamin can induce night blindness.
  • Cataracts
    A buildup of protein clouds the eye’s lens, leading to impaired vision, especially at night and in poor lighting conditions.
  • Diabetic retinopathy
    Damage to the eyes’ blood vessels and nerves can result in vision loss, including difficulty seeing at night.
  • Glaucoma
    This group of eye diseases is associated with pressure build-up in the eye that damages the optic nerve. Both Glaucoma and the medications used to treat it can cause night blindness.
  • Myopia
    Also called nearsightedness, Myopia makes distant objects appear blurry, and patients with it describe a starburst effect around lights at night.
  • Keratoconus
    An irregularly shaped cornea causes blurred vision and may involve sensitivity to light and glare which tend to be worse at night.
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP)
    A progressive genetic eye disease which can be associated with other diseases, RP leads to night blindness and peripheral vision loss.
  • Usher Syndrome
    This genetic condition causes both hearing loss and vision loss, including night blindness and RP, mentioned above.

Symptoms of Nyctalopia

Since night blindness is a symptom of some serious vision problems, it’s important to get your eyes checked regularly to ensure that everything is in good working order. Contact your eye doctor as soon as possible if you notice that you don’t see as well in dim light as you used to, such as when driving at night or when adjusting from being outdoors in the sunshine to being indoors.

Symptoms of Night Blindness Include:

  • Reduced contrast sensitivity
  • Difficulty seeing people outdoors at night
  • Difficulty seeing in places with dim lighting, like a movie theater
  • Trouble adapting to the dark while driving
  • Excessive squinting at night
  • Trouble adjusting from bright areas to darker ones

Treatments for Night Blindness

Your eye doctor will want to diagnose the cause of your night blindness in order to treat it. For example, in the rare case of vitamin A deficiency, it can be treated with vitamin supplements and vitamin-A rich foods; Myopia can be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. Other conditions may require medications or surgery.

If night blindness is caused by a birth defect, Usher syndrome, or retinitis pigmentosa, low vision aids and devices can help you make the most of your remaining vision.

Prevention

While there is no proven way to prevent night blindness resulting from genetic conditions or birth defects, consuming healthy, nourishing foods and taking certain vitamin supplements may prevent or slow the onset of some eye conditions that cause night blindness.

If you experience poor vision at night or in dim lighting, we can help. Contact Bastien & Prizant in Ottawa to schedule your appointment today.

Book an eye exam at an eye clinic near you to learn more about your candidacy for contact lenses and which type is right for you.

Bastien & Prizant, your Ottawa eye doctor for eye exams and eye care

Alternatively, book an appointment online here CLICK FOR AN APPOINTMENT

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Frequently asked questions answered by our Eye Doctor in Ottawa, Ontario:

  • What are the reasons for Cataract Removal?

    Cataracts can interfere with your ability to live normally. They may make it impossible to drive, read, use a computer, watch TV, climb staircases, or identify faces. Cataracts can also get in the way of medical treatment for other eye diseases, such as macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy because they prevent your eye doctor from inspecting the back tissues of your eye thoroughly. These are all reasons why your eye doctor may recommend cataract surgery.

  • Why Diabetic Eye Exams are Essential?

    At present, one in 10 Americans has diabetes – and the trend is continuing upwards. While routine comprehensive eye exams are important for diagnosing the early signs of diabetes, that doesn’t mean eye exams become insignificant after diagnosis!

  • What is glaucoma?

    Glaucoma describes a type of ocular disease that causes damage to your optic nerve and destroys your quality of vision. With no early symptoms, glaucoma can only be detected by a complete eye examination. When left untreated, glaucoma can result in detrimental vision loss. When treated early by one of our professional, knowledgeable eye doctors, we can help preserve your healthy eyesight.

  • What is Myopia?

    Cataracts can interfere with your ability to live normally. They may make it impossible to drive, read, use a computer, watch TV, climb staircases, or identify faces. Cataracts can also get in the way of medical treatment for other eye diseases, such as macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy because they prevent your eye doctor from inspecting the back tissues of your eye thoroughly. These are all reasons why your eye doctor may recommend cataract surgery.

 

Does Obesity Impact Eye Health?

Nation-wide awareness about the vast dangers of obesity is at an all-time high, with TV shows like “The Biggest Loser” and health initiatives such as Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign shining a spotlight on the importance of fitness and good nutrition. However, despite the public’s knowledge of obesity’s effects on hypertension, stroke, and diabetes, many are not aware of how it damages eye health and vision.

Increasing evidence shows that people who are clinically obese have an elevated risk of developing serious eye diseases. It is widely known that expanding waistlines place people at a higher risk of getting diabetes, heart disease, and cancer — but researchers say the link between obesity and deteriorating vision is the “risk factor that no one talks about”. Professor Michael Belkin and Dr. Zohar Habot-Wilner, from the Goldschleger Eye Institute at the Sheba Medical Center, found a consistently strong correlation between obesity and the development of four major eye diseases that may cause blindness:

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetic retinopathy

The researchers said that although the evidence was out there suggesting a link between obesity and these conditions, their study emphasizes the optometric risks of obesity which can help motivate people to shed those extra pounds.

How Obesity Contributes to Eye Disease

A Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 is considered overweight and above 30 is regarded as obese. A high BMI is tied to several chronic systemic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke, among others. Recent research indicates that a handful of ocular diseases can now be added to that list.

Serious eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration are more common in individuals with obesity, as well as floppy eyelid syndrome, retinal vein occlusions, thyroid-related eye diseases, and stroke-related vision loss.

The connection between obesity and these eye diseases is likely due to the increased risk of peripheral artery disease. This occurs when the tiny blood vessels bringing oxygen to parts of your body like the feet, kidneys, and eyes become compromised.

Your eyes are particularly prone to damage from obesity because the blood vessels in the eyes (called arterioles) are easily blocked, since they’re extremely thin and small — as thin as ½ the width of a human hair!

Most people are not aware that obesity may increase the rate of developing cataracts, too. Cataracts result when the focusing lens in the eye becomes cloudy and requires surgery to be replaced. In addition to age, cataract development is associated with obesity, poor nutrition, gout, diabetes and high blood sugar levels, though the exact cause isn’t clear.

A Healthy Lifestyle Can Reduce Your Risk of Ocular Disease

Knowing about the risk of vision loss may give those with a high BMI the extra motivational boost they need to lose weight. The good news is that a few lifestyle changes can reduce the associated risks.

An active lifestyle and a balanced, nutritious diet lower obesity and improve overall physical and eye health. Give your body a boost by incorporating important nutrients, such as vitamins C and E, zeaxanthin, omega 3, zinc, and lutein, many of which are found in green leafy and dark orange vegetables, as they have been shown to reduce the onset, progression, and severity of certain eye diseases.

We Can Help Keep Your Eyes Healthy in Ottawa

While a healthy diet and regular exercise greatly increase your chances of living a disease-free long life, they alone are not enough to ensure long term healthy eyesight. Regular eye exams with Dr. Harry Prizant can help prevent or detect the onset of ocular disease, and maintain vision that is clear and comfortable.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your vision or eye health, don’t hesitate to call Bastien & Prizant — we’re here for you.

3 Ways Diabetes Can Affect Your Vision and Eyes

Did you know that people with diabetes are 20 times more likely to get eye diseases than those without it? There are three major eye conditions that diabetics are at risk for developing: cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. To prevent these sight-threatening diseases, it’s important to control your blood sugar level and have your eyes checked at least once a year by an eye doctor.

But First, What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that is associated with high blood glucose levels. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps our cells get energy from the sugars we eat. Diabetes develops when the body doesn’t produce or respond to insulin effectively, leaving too much sugar in the blood stream instead. Over time, diabetes can lead to potentially irreversible ocular damage and poor eyesight. However, by taking care of your blood sugar levels and your eyes, you can prevent vision loss.

Annual eye exams are recommended for everyone, but routine screenings are even more important for diabetics. Eye doctors may send diabetic eye health reports to a patient’s primary care physician or internist to adjust medication as needed to prevent complications.

What’s the Link Between Vision and Diabetes?

Blurred vision or fluctuating eyesight clarity is often one of the first noticeable signs that diabetes has begun to affect your eyes. Sometimes, fluid leaking into the eye causes the lens to swell and change shape. This, in turn, makes it difficult for the eyes to focus, resulting in fuzzy vision. Such symptoms can indicate that an eye disease is developing, or may simply be due to imbalanced blood sugar levels which can be rectified by getting your blood sugar back to healthy levels.

If you start to notice blurry vision, make an appointment with Dr. Harry Prizant as soon as possible.

The 3 Ways Diabetes Impacts Vision

Cataracts

While cataracts are extremely common and a part of the natural aging process, those with diabetes tend to develop cataracts earlier in life. Characterized by a clouding or fogging of the lens within the eye, cataracts impede light from entering the eye, causing blurred vision and glares. The best treatment is cataract surgery, which is very safe and effective.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma refers to a group of eye diseases characterized by optic nerve damage. Since it tends to impact peripheral vision first, glaucoma often goes unnoticed until significant damage has occurred. However, routine glaucoma screenings can detect warning signs; early treatment can prevent disease progression and vision loss.

Although there is no true cure for glaucoma, most glaucoma patients successfully manage it with special eye drops, medication, and on occasion, laser treatment or other surgery. The earlier glaucoma is diagnosed and managed, the better the outcome.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the small blood vessels on your retina (capillaries) become weakened and then balloon (microaneurysm) due to poorly controlled blood sugar levels. The resulting poor blood circulation in the back of the eye causes more abnormal blood vessels to grow, which also bleed or leak fluid, and can lead to scar tissue, retinal detachment and even blindness, over time.

Often there are no symptoms until the advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy, where patients may begin to see spots and missing patches in their vision. Retinopathy can be treated through surgery and eye injections, but the best way to prevent this disease from progressing is to regularly have your eyes screened.

The good news is that diabetic eye disease can often be prevented with early detection, proper management of your diabetes and regular diabetic eye exams. Contact Bastien & Prizant in Ottawa to set up your eye doctor’s appointment today.

Diabetes and Your Eyes

Diabetes is becoming much more prevalent around the globe. According to the International Diabetes Federation, approximately 425 million adults were living with diabetes in the year 2017 and 352 million more people were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. By 2045 the number of people diagnosed is expected to rise to 629 million.

Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness as well as heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, neuropathy (nerve damage) and lower limb amputation. In fact, in 2017, diabetes was implicated in 4 million deaths worldwide. Nevertheless preventing these complications from diabetes is possible with proper treatment, medication and regular medical screenings as well as improving your diet, physical activity and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the hormone insulin is either underproduced or ineffective in its ability to regulate blood sugar. Uncontrolled diabetes leads to hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, which damages many systems in the body such as the blood vessels and the nervous system.

How Does Diabetes Affect The Eyes?

Diabetic eye disease is a group of conditions which are caused, or worsened, by diabetes; including: diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, glaucoma and cataracts. Diabetes increases the risk of cataracts by four times, and can increase dryness and reduce cornea sensation.

In diabetic retinopathy, over time, the tiny blood vessels within the eyes become damaged, causing leakage, poor oxygen circulation, then scarring of the sensitive tissue within the retina, which can result in further cell damage and scarring.

The longer you have diabetes, and the longer your blood sugar levels remain uncontrolled, the higher the chances of developing diabetic eye disease. Unlike many other vision-threatening conditions which are more prevalent in older individuals, diabetic eye disease is one of the main causes of vision loss in the younger, working-age population. Unfortunately, these eye conditions can lead to blindness if not caught early and treated. In fact, 2.6% of blindness worldwide is due to diabetes.

Diabetic Retinopathy

As mentioned above, diabetes can result in cumulative damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye. This is called diabetic retinopathy.

The retina is responsible for converting the light it receives into visual signals to the optic nerve in the brain. High blood sugar levels can cause the blood vessels in the retina to leak or hemorrhage, causing bleeding and distorting vision. In advanced stages, new blood vessels may begin to grow on the retinal surface causing scarring and further damaging cells in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can eventually lead to blindness.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

The early stages of diabetic retinopathy often have no symptoms, which is why it’s vitally important to have frequent diabetic eye exams. As it progresses you may start to notice the following symptoms:

  • Blurred or fluctuating vision or vision loss
  • Floaters (dark spots or strings that appear to float in your visual field)
  • Blind spots
  • Color vision loss

There is no pain associated with diabetic retinopathy to signal any issues. If not controlled, as retinopathy continues it can cause retinal detachment and macular edema, two other serious conditions that threaten vision. Again, there are often NO signs or symptoms until more advanced stages.

A person with diabetes can do their part to control their blood sugar level. Following the physician’s medication plan, as well as diet and exercise recommendations can help slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

Retinal Detachment

Scar tissues caused by the breaking and forming of blood vessels in advanced retinopathy can lead to a retinal detachment in which the retina pulls away from the underlying tissue. This condition is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately as it can lead to permanent vision loss. Signs of a retinal detachment include a sudden onset of floaters or flashes in the vision.

Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

Diabetic macular edema occurs when the macula, a part of the retina responsible for clear central vision, becomes full of fluid (edema). It is a complication of diabetic retinopathy that occurs in about half of patients, and causes vision loss.

Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema

While vision loss from diabetic retinopathy and DME often can’t be restored, with early detection there are some preventative treatments available. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (when the blood vessels begin to grow abnormally) can be treated by laser surgery, injections or a procedure called vitrectomy in which the vitreous gel in the center of the eye is removed and replaced. This will treat bleeding caused by ruptured blood vessels. DME can be treated with injection therapy, laser surgery or corticosteroids.

Prevent Vision Loss from Diabetes

The best way to prevent vision loss from diabetic eye disease is early detection and treatment. Since there may be no symptoms in the early stages, regular diabetic eye exams are critical for early diagnosis. In fact diabetics are now sometimes monitored by their health insurance to see if they are getting regular eye exams and premium rates can be affected by how regularly the patients get their eyes checked. Keeping diabetes under control through exercise, diet, medication and regular screenings will help to reduce the chances of vision loss and blindness from diabetes.

 

Women and Diabetes – World Diabetes Day

November 14th is World Diabetes Day. This year, the theme of World Diabetes Day is women and diabetes – our right to a healthy future. The goal of this campaign is to promote awareness of the importance of equal and affordable access for all women, whether they are at risk or already living with diabetes, to the treatments, medications, technology, education and information they need to prevent diabetes and to obtain the best possible outcome of the disease.

Here are some facts about women and diabetes around the World:

  • 199 million – the number of women living with diabetes to date.
  • 313 million – the projected statistic for the year 2040.
  • 2.1 million – the number of female deaths due to diabetes per year.
  • 9 – diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women on a global scale.
  • 60 million – which is 2 out of 5 diabetic women, are of reproductive age, which increases the risk of early miscarriage, vision loss and having malformed babies.
  • 10 – women with type 2 diabetes are ten times more likely to develop coronary heart disease.

Much of these incidences of diabetes occur in women lacking access to proper medical care, education, physical activity and information they need to prevent and manage the disease. If more efforts and monies were put toward improving this situation, these numbers could drop significantly.

Pregnant women with hyperglycemia and gestational diabetes are also a major cause of concern. Limited access to screening tests, pre-pregnancy planning services, education and medical care could also improve the outcome of both the mother and the baby in these cases. The majority of instances of gestational diabetes occur in women from low and middle-income countries or households with limited access to maternal care.

Here are some additional facts about diabetes and pregnancy:

  • 1 out of 7 – the number of births worldwide affected by gestational diabetes.
  • 1 out of 2 – the number of women with gestational diabetes that develop type 2 diabetes within 5-10 years after giving birth.
  • 1 out of 2 – the number of cases of gestational diabetes that are found in women under 30 years of age.

Diabetes and Your Eyes

Diabetes damages many systems in your body including your eyes and vision. Most individuals with diabetes will eventually develop some extent of retinopathy or eye disease due to the consistently high levels of glucose in the blood which damage the blood vessels in the eye. Diabetic retinopathy can be a devastating disease that can leave you with permanent vision loss or blindness. It is a leading cause of blindness worldwide. Diabetes also speeds up the formation of cataracts and other ocular diseases which can lead to further vision loss and complications.

Women who have been diagnosed with diabetes prior to becoming pregnant have to be especially careful during pregnancy. It is much more difficult to regulate blood sugars during pregnancy, and more rapid progression of diabetic retinopathy can occur if one is not careful. Keeping track of diet and exercise, and taking medications as directed, can prevent or delay the impact of diabetes on the eyes.

In addition to poorly managed blood sugar levels, additional factors that contribute to developing diabetic retinopathy are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Hispanic or Native American descent, smoking, pregnancy, and the length of time you have the disease. The condition can be managed with regular eye exams in combination with steps to control blood sugar levels.

It’s important to note that diabetes sometimes causes symptoms of vision fluctuation (good days and bad days with vision or focusing) but many times the damage is asymptomatic in its early stages. This is why it is essential to have regular checkups even when you have no pain or vision symptoms.

If you or someone you know has diabetes, regular eye exams are essential to monitor and prevent vision loss. Stay informed and spread awareness about this challenging condition. You can help be part of the change to improve the lives of women and people all over the world that suffer from diabetes and the serious complications that come with it.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

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Diabetes is a growing health crisis in North America as an estimated 29 million Americans and 3.4 million Canadians are currently living with the disease. Chances are it affects you or someone you know. November has been dedicated as a time to spread awareness about the disease, its risk factors and the effects it has on your body, your daily life and the lives of your loved ones.

Diabetes and Your Eyes

Diabetes is a systemic disease that causes fluctuations in glucose (blood sugar) levels which can affect blood vessels throughout the body including those in your eyes and visual system. People with diabetes are at higher risk for blindness than the general population, however with regular eye exams and proper care, most of the complications are minor and treatable.

Minor changes in glucose levels could result in complications such as blurred or double vision, floaters or even visual field loss. These conditions are usually quite treatable. Diabetics are also at greater risk for developing eye diseases such as glaucoma (40% increase risk) and cataracts (60% increased risk). With early detection, both of these conditions can be treated and the majority of vision restored.

Diabetic eye disease often has NO noticeable symptoms or pain, so comprehensive eye exams that include dilating the pupils are essential to detect signs of diabetes. Online vision assessments will not detect diabetic eye disease.

The condition that is the most concerning risk of diabetes is called diabetic retinopathy which can lead to blindness if not diagnosed and treated.

What You Need to Know About Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the tiny blood vessels or capillaries in the back of the eye develop weakened vessel walls. If not treated, the vessels leak fluid and become blocked. This can progress to hemorrhages in the retina, and over time the eye does not receive enough oxygen and nutrients. As a result, new fine blood vessels start to grow. These proliferating vessels leak and can cause further bleeding, scarring and potentially lead to blindness. A special zone in the central retina called the macula is especially susceptible to diabetes. Diabetic macular edema (when fluid seeps into the macula) can cause permanent vision loss if not promptly detected.

There are treatments for stopping the progression of the disease such as laser therapy or intraocular injections, although once damage to vision has occurred, it is often permanent. This is why the condition must be diagnosed and treated early on.

All diabetics should have a regular comprehensive eye exam to catch any early signs of diabetic retinopathy or other vision threatening conditions. Because risk factors vary, speak to your eye doctor about how often you should have an exam. Risk factors for diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Length of time living with diabetes
  • Uncontrolled blood sugar levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Pregnancy
  • Genetics

Although blindness from diabetes is preventable it is still a leading cause of blindness among working-age adults. If you or someone you know has the disease, make sure that proper eye care is a priority.

How to Prevent Diabetic Vision Loss

Eye Complications of Diabetes

It’s true. Diabetics have a higher risk of blindness than those without the disease. That fact coupled with the superior prognosis of early intervention, makes it easy to understand why optometrists and doctors say routine eye care is absolutely essential. Below, we’ll discuss what your eye doctor is looking for during a diabetic eye exam.

As the incidence of diabetes increases, it is important to spread awareness about the risks and proper preventative care for diabetes patients. November is Diabetes Awareness month, so read on!

Diabetics are at greater risk of for a number of eye problems.

Diabetic Retinopathy:

Diabetic retinopathy is the term used for the disorders associated with diabetes that cause progressive damage to the retina. The longer a patient has had diabetes, the more likely it is that he will develop these conditions which can be very serious, vision-threatening complications.

There are two types of retinopathy: nonproliferative and proliferative.

Nonproliferative retinopathy, which is the most common form, is when capillaries at the back of the eye become weakened and may start to leak blood and fluids. Nonproliferative retinopathy, which often has no symptoms, can be characterized as mild, moderate or severe, depending on how many blood vessels are affected and becoming blocked. This type of retinopathy usually doesn’t require treatment and doesn’t cause vision loss, unless the leaking fluid ends up in the macula where the eye focuses – a condition called macular edema. If this happens, vision can be blurred and even lost so preventative treatment is essential.

Proliferative retinopathy is much more severe. This is when so much damage is done to the blood vessels that they begin to close off. New blood vessels begin to grow in the retina as a response to this deterioration. The new and weak vessels can leak blood, impairing vision, or can form scar tissue which can distort the retina or cause a retinal detachment.

Proliferative retinopathy requires urgent referral to an ophthalmologist for treatment. While it usually takes years to develop, some instances of proliferative retinopathy can occur within weeks or months if blood sugars are not well-controlled. Pregnancy can also accelerate proliferative retinopathy in known diabetics. Yet if detected early, treatment can be done successfully.

Like high blood pressure, there are often no warning symptoms until advanced stages of diabetes. It is best to get checked each year by an optometrist. If you experience any changes in your vision such as spots in vision, flashes of light, blurred or double vision (rarely pain), make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately. Treatments do exists for retinopathy and many of them are successful in repairing damage and sometimes even restoring vision.

Cataracts:

Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye which blocks light from entering and impairs vision. While cataracts are a fairly common and treatable condition, people with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop the condition and often get them at a younger age. Those with the condition also may experience vision fluctuation which occurs from sugar levels affecting the lens of the eye. Cataracts often progress faster in diabetics as well. In serious cases of cataracts, a surgical procedure is done to remove the natural lens of the eye which can sometimes cause complications in diabetic patients that may already have symptoms of other conditions such as diabetic retinopathy.

Glaucoma:

Glaucoma is a serious condition where pressure builds up in the eye causing damage to the retina and optic nerve and eventually if left untreated, blindness. Diabetics are 40% more likely to develop glaucoma and the risk increases with age and the amount of time the individual has had diabetes. There are treatments for glaucoma including medications and surgery but early detection and treatment are essential to prevent permanent vision loss. Glaucoma is often called the “silent thief of sight” because vision loss often doesn’t occur until significant damage is done. Therefore, yearly eye exams are essential.

Cornea Alterations:

Diabetics may experience reduced sensitivity in their cornea. This means that contact lens wearers that are diabetics should be more cautious, as they develop higher tolerance if the lens irritates the eyes and may be at greater risk of infection.

Eye Muscle Disturbance:

More advanced diabetes cases can show restriction of eye muscle movement due to nerve palsy.

 

For diabetics, the key to early detection and treatment – and therefore preserving your vision – is to have your eye health monitored on a regular basis. Get your eyes examined every year by an optometrist and if you experience any changes in your vision such as spots, floaters, blurred vision or pain, make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately.