WISCONSIN RAPIDS – When you have diabetes, seeing an eye doctor at least once a year for a comprehensive dilated eye exam is an essential task for good health. Diabetes raises your risk for several eye diseases that can steal your sight. Most of them start stealthily with few, if any, symptoms.
That’s why for Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, Aspirus health experts are encouraging people of all ages to see their eye doctor yearly to help prevent and detect vision-related problems, or worse, vision loss.
“Dilated eye exams are critical as they can reveal hidden signs of disease early on, enabling timely and effective treatment,” said Aspirus Riverview Certified Diabetes Educator Rebecca White, RD.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the four most common eye diseases associated with diabetes are:
- Diabetic retinopathy. The retina is the inner lining at the back of each eye. High blood sugar can damage the tiny blood vessels around the retina, causing the blood vessels to form pouches that affect vision. Fluid can leak from the blood vessels and trigger abnormal new blood vessels in the retina. This latter stage of the disease can lead to serious vision problems.
- Diabetic macular edema. The macula is part of the retina. Diabetes can cause swelling in the macula, which can progress to partial or complete vision loss.
- Glaucoma. This group of diseases happen when fluid in the eye can't drain properly. As the fluid builds, it can damage the optic nerve, a group of nerves that connect the eye to the brain.
- Cataracts. A cataract is a clouding of the lenses in the eye, which diminishes vision. People without diabetes often get cataracts, which become more common with age. But if you have diabetes, you have a higher risk of developing cataracts at an earlier age.
“Regular dilated eye exams and taking control of your diabetes may save your vision,” said White.
To learn more about diabetes and ways you can protect your eyes, tune in to this Aspirus podcast: Do You have Diabetes? Take Good Care of Your Eyes.
Aspirus is a non-profit, community-directed health system based in Wausau, Wisconsin. Its 7,700 employees are focused on improving the health and well-being of people throughout Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. Aspirus serves communities through four hospitals in Michigan and four hospitals in Wisconsin, 50 clinics, home health and hospice care, pharmacies, critical care and air-medical transport, medical goods, nursing homes and a broad network of physicians. Aspirus was recognized in 2018 and 2019 by IBM Watson Health as a Top 15 Health System in its annual study identifying the top-performing health systems in the country. For more information, visit aspirus.org.