Facebook Fan Submitted topic #1: Diabetes

We asked for suggestions from our Facebook fans for blog posts and we got some great responses.   This is the first of  5 posts on Dr.  Beach’s blog  to be based on these topics/questions.

Christie, a CEC Facebook fan, asks:    “What about eye problems that diabetics may face and how to potentially avoid them?”

Awesome topic suggestion, Christie!   This one is so important because diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of blindness in America.

There is a very large range of potential issues that the eyes may develop as a result of diabetes.

One of the most common, and fortunately reversible, issues is prescription fluctuations.   Changes in the blood sugar levels of diabetics will very likely change their glasses or contact lens prescriptions.   For instance, if a patient’s blood sugar runs near 120 for a few weeks and then sees their doctor right after thanksgiving with a blood sugar near 200, this person has most likely experienced some changes in their prescription.   If a diabetic patient has highly fluctuating blood sugar levels from day to day or week to week, it is usually beneficial to wait for stabilized levels before finalizing glasses or contact lens prescriptions.

The best way to avoid these fluctuations is to check blood sugar regularly and to work closely with the primary care physician to help stabilize the blood sugar levels.   If a person isn’t regularly checking their blood sugar levels, these fluctuations are being missed and might lead to glasses prescriptions that will need to be changed frequently.

There are a number of other issues diabetics face, including cataracts and increased risk for glaucoma—-just to name a few.    However, it’s diabetic retinopathy that is the most serious complication and is currently one of the leading causes of blindness in America.    Diabetes tends to make blood vessels more prone to leakage.   When this happens in the retinal vasculature, it can potentially be devastating to the retinal tissue.   The severity of the damage and the resulting affect on vision depends on the location of the leakage within the retina and the response of the retina to the problem.   The damage done by diabetic retinopathy may be permanent, and retinal laser surgery may be required to prevent that damage from worsening.

Monitoring and keeping control over blood sugar is extremely important.  But when it comes to diabetic retinopathy, annual dilated eye exams with an optometrist are crucial to detecting early indications of diabetic retinopathy.   It is an absolute necessity for every diabetic patient to get a dilated retinal evaluation every 12 months, even if the diabetes is well controlled.  If I wasn’t such a horrible driver, I would personally drive diabetics to get their annual exam—–it really is that important.

Thanks Christie for suggesting this great topic.   It is definitely one that I am personally passionate about and one that I’d like to revisit in more detail soon.

Dr. Beach.