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Diabetes and Eye Problems

Prevention of Diabetic Retinopathy continued...

Routine screening offers the best hope for early detection of diabetic retinopathy. People with type 1 diabetes should have a complete eye exam within five years of diagnosis; those with type 2 should have an eye exam at the time their diabetes is diagnosed. After these initial exams, all people with diabetes should have an eye exam at least once a year. Your doctor may recommend more frequent screenings depending on the severity of retinal damage and on other diabetes complications you have.

Pregnancy can precipitate or worsen retinopathy in women with diabetes who take insulin, so any such woman considering pregnancy should discuss the risks with her doctor. Your doctor will usually recommend an eye exam before pregnancy, a second exam during the first trimester, and additional exams at intervals based on the status of your retinopathy. Women who suddenly develop diabetes during a pregnancy (gestational diabetes) are not at risk of developing retinopathy during the pregnancy.

High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and obesity can all promote diabetic retinopathy and should be treated. Smoking is also a culprit: Consult with your doctor about methods for quitting. Never ignore the symptoms of infection, which can worsen diabetic retinopathy. Cataract surgery can affect existing retinopathy, too, so discuss the timing of treatments for retinopathy and cataracts with your doctor.

Researchers continue to investigate new drugs that may prevent or slow diabetic retinopathy; your doctor can provide information about the latest medications approved for these purposes. Depending on the severity of your diabetes and related complications, you may also want to discuss the options of pancreas and kidney transplants, which may protect against retinopathy.

Call Your Doctor About Diabetes or Retinopathy If:

  • You or your child has been diagnosed with diabetes and you have not discussed retinopathy and routine eye exams with your doctor.
  • You experience either gradual or sudden loss of vision.
  • You have diabetes and are considering pregnancy.
  • You are having trouble sticking to your doctor's recommendations for controlling blood sugar.
  • You have vision loss and would like to discuss options for improving your vision.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on September 30, 2014
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