Diabetes puts people at a higher risk for having eye problems that could cause blindness. In fact, blurred vision is sometimes among the first signs of diabetes that a person may have. Doctors identify eye problems that are related to diabetes as “diabetic eye disease.” There are different kinds of diabetic eye disease. When caught early, they can be treated, so it’s important that caregivers to seniors with diabetes ensure that the senior receives regular eye exams.
Diabetic retinopathy refers to eye problems that affect the retina. The retina is a layer of tissue at the back of the eye that is sensitive to light. Diabetic retinopathy is the number one reason for vision loss in diabetics. When a person has diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels in the retina are damaged and bleed, which changes the way a person sees.
When the condition becomes severe, the number of blood vessels in the retina can increase and cause scarring and loss of retina cells. There are four stages of diabetic retinopathy:
- Mild Non-Proliferative Retinopathy: During this stage, the blood vessels develop micro-aneurysms, tiny bulges in the vessels that leak blood.
- Moderate Non-Proliferative Retinopathy: At this stage, the blood vessels have become swollen and distorted. Sometimes their ability to move blood through the retina is affected.
- Severe Non-Proliferative Retinopathy: This stage of the condition involves more and more blood vessels being blocked, cutting off blood supply to some parts of the retina. This results in the areas whose supply has been cut off to create their own blood vessels.
- Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy: When the condition reaches this stage, the retina continues to create new, abnormal blood vessels that extend into the fluid that fills the eye. These blood vessels are extremely fragile and bleed more easily. Scarring may cause the retina to peel away from the back of the eye. This is called retinal detachment and may result in permanent loss of vision.
Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)
Edema is a term that refers to a build-up of fluid. When a person has DME, fluid builds up in the macula, which is part of the retina. The macula is responsible for making vision clear and sharp when you look straight ahead. Because it affects the retina, DME is considered a type of diabetic retinopathy.
People who have diabetes are at a 60 percent greater risk for developing cataracts. Cataracts cause the lens of the eye to become cloudy, which reduces the amount of light that can get through. When cataracts are severe, doctors may recommend surgery to remove the lens, which is sometimes replaced with a transplant lens.
Diabetes causes a 40 percent greater risk for glaucoma, a disease in which the pressure of the eye increases. The increased pressure pinches the optic nerve and the retina, causing damage. The damage to the nerve and retina results in gradual vision loss.
All of these conditions are treatable when they are diagnosed early, but sometimes the damage that has already been done is irreversible. To help prevent vision loss, caregivers should talk to the senior’s doctor to determine how often they should have their vision checked. Once a problem has been identified, it’s important that caregivers help the senior to follow the doctor’s advice and take any medication that has been prescribed.
IF YOU OR AN AGING LOVED ONE ARE CONSIDERING CAREGIVERS IN MOORESVILLE, NC, PLEASE CONTACT THE CARING STAFF AT GOLDEN HEART SENIOR CARE OF CHARLOTTE. (704) 246-5806.