Question: What are the eye complications of diabetes and how are they treated?
Answer: Diabetic retinopathy can affect essentially all structures of the eye, but most commonly causes complications in the back portion of the eye called the retina. We term this 'diabetic retinopathy,' and it can result in the abnormal growth of blood vessels or blood vessel leakage, ultimately causing loss of vision.
Indeed, diabetic retinopathy remains the leading cause of blindness among working-age Americans. However, the rate of retinopathy progression and the rate of visual loss can be reduced in several ways. Optimizing one's blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood lipids can reduce the progression of diabetic retinopathy.
If one develops severe disease, the most common initial treatment is laser photocoagulation, where a laser beam is used to treat the retina to stop the growth of the blood vessels and the leakage. A variety of new treatments are also under investigation, including injection of steroids or inhibitors of growth factors within the eye. Although not yet fully evaluated, these may be appropriate under certain situations.
Finally, with very severe disease, surgery within the eye may be of benefit. If you have diabetes, routine, life-long dilated eye examinations by a provider knowledgeable in diabetic retinopathy, is one of the best ways for you to preserve and protect your vision.