Between 40-45% of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy, but only about half know they have it because there aren’t any symptoms in the early stage and many don’t get regular diabetic eye examinations. Protect your vision and contact the Eye Care Center of Kauai, in Lihue, Hawaii, to schedule an appointment. Having a yearly diabetic eye exam can prevent 95% of diabetes-related vision loss.

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Why is it so essential to get regular diabetic eye examinations?

Getting a regular diabetic eye exam is not negotiable if you’re diabetic and want to preserve your vision. When blood pressure gets too high, it damages blood vessels in your eyes, which in turn harms the retina.

Damage to the retina can develop for years and you won’t know it because there aren’t any symptoms until the day you notice blurry vision. By then it may be too late to reverse your vision loss. Regular eye exams catch diabetic eye disease in its early stage, while there’s still time to treat it and save your vision.

What types of eye diseases are caused by diabetes?

There are two primary types of diabetic eye disease:

Diabetic retinopathy
Damaged blood vessels in the retina leak fluid and cause swelling inside the eye. Eventually, the retina grows new blood vessels, which also bleed. Depending on the severity of the damage caused by the bleeding, you’ll develop blurry vision and potentially have permanent vision loss.

Diabetic macular edema
Leakage from blood vessels causes a buildup of fluid in the macula, which is an area of the retina that’s vital for vision. Macular edema is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetic retinopathy.

Patients with diabetes are also at a higher risk for developing two other serious eye diseases:

The lens in one or both eyes gets cloudy, which causes blurry vision and gradually leads to blindness. If you have diabetes, you’re 2-5 times more likely to develop a cataract compared to people without diabetes.

This is a group of eye diseases in which the eye’s optic nerve is progressively and permanently damaged, causing vision loss and blindness. People with diabetes have double the risk of developing glaucoma.

What should you expect at the eye exam?

The only way to detect diabetic eye disease is with a comprehensive dilated eye exam that allows your doctor at the Eye Care Center of Kauai to see changes in blood vessels, swelling in the macula, changes in the lens, and damage to nerve tissue. During the exam, the doctor will also measure eye pressure and take high-resolution images of tissues inside your eyes.

After determining your eye health, the doctor will suggest a schedule for follow-up examinations and recommend treatment if problems have developed. A variety of treatment options are available, including medications that can reverse abnormal blood vessel growth and laser surgery to stop bleeding or destroy abnormal blood vessels.