Diabetes is a serious condition affecting more than 30 million Americans. While there are a number of variations of the disease, all of them can affect the eye. This is Diabetic Eye Disease Month, and is a good time to learn how to care for your eyes if you have diabetes. Diabetes is a condition in which the pancreas does not produce enough, or any, insulin. It can lead to permanent eye damage if left untreated. Patients can develop several eye problems, including diabetic retinopathy, cataract, glaucoma, and double vision. Diabetic patients should get their eyes checked regularly. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, your primary care physician will refer you to an eye doctor to have your eyes checked with a dilated eye exam once a year. Yearly exams are recommended initially, but if retinal disease is noted, your eye doctor may ask you to come in more frequently. “Diabetes is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss among working age adults,” CEENTA Ophthalmologist Omar Punjabi, MD, said. “Once a patient notices problems with their eyesight, it usually is late in the disease. This is why regular eye screenings are so important. Fortunately, new advances in basic and clinical research mean there are several new and successful treatment options available today.” The most common diabetes-related eye condition is the development of cataracts, or a cloudiness of the eye’s lens. Glaucoma is a disease where nerve fibers are damaged – usually by pressure buildup in the eye – causing blind spots and vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy is a more serious complication of diabetes, which occurs when blood vessels in the retina change, sometimes causing swelling and leaking fluid in the retina. In more serious cases, the blood vessels can close off, leading to permanent vision loss. Sometimes abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina and can cause bleeding in the eye or even a retinal detachment. Diabetic eye and ear problems are preventable, though. Patients can prevent retinopathy and other related visual loss through tight blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol control. This can be done through a combination of a good diet, regular exercise, and taking the medicines your doctor prescribes. If retinopathy treatments are needed, patients will likely be referred to a retina specialist for treatment. There are several options for treatment, including laser eye surgery, injections of medication into the eye, or surgery in the operating room. Don’t let diabetes harm your vision. Let Diabetic Eye Disease Month be the time you decide to get ahead of this illness and protect your eyesight. This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. Dr. Punjabi practices in CEENTA’s SouthPark, Matthews, and Concord offices. To make an appointment with him or any of our eye doctors, call 704.295.3000. You can also schedule an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.