Andrea Kolligian has learned that she's likely to get well-meaning comments if she eats a donut.
"Can you eat that? Are you sure you can eat that?" a friend or coworker will ask.
Kolligian, an administrative assistant at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was a teenager, and has been taking insulin ever since. But like many people with type I diabetes, she's learned that the growing prevalence of the type 2 form of the disease, which is often...
Diabetic retinopathy -- damage to the blood vessels in the
Cataract -- clouding of the eye's lens.
Glaucoma -- increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that
leads to optic nerve damage and loss of vision.
Cataract and glaucoma also affect many people
who do not have diabetes.
2. What Is the Most Common Diabetic Eye Disease?
Diabetic retinopathy. This disease is a
leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is caused by changes in the
blood vessels of the retina. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, retinal
blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood
vessels grow on the surface of the retina. These changes may result in vision
loss or blindness.
3. Who Is Most Likely to Get Diabetic Retinopathy?
Anyone with diabetes. The longer someone has
diabetes, the more likely he or she will get diabetic retinopathy. Nearly half
of all people with diabetes will develop some degree of diabetic retinopathy
during their lifetime.
4. What Are Its Symptoms?
Often there are none in the early stages of
the disease. Vision may not change until the disease becomes severe. Nor is
there any pain.
Blurred vision may occur when the macula --
the part of the retina that provides sharp, central vision -- swells from the
leaking fluid. This condition is called macular edema. If new vessels have
grown on the surface of the retina, they can bleed into the eye, blocking
vision. But, even in more advanced cases, the disease may progress a long way
without symptoms. That is why regular eye examinations for people with diabetes
are so important.
5. How Is It Detected?
If you have diabetes, you should have your
eyes examined at least once a year.
Your eyes should be dilated during the exam.
That means eyedrops are used to enlarge your pupils. This allows the eye care
professional to see more of the inside of your eyes to check for signs of the
6. Can Diabetic Retinopathy Be Treated?
Yes. Your eye care professional may suggest
laser surgery in which a strong light beam is aimed onto the retina to shrink
the abnormal vessels. Laser surgery has been proved to reduce the risk of
severe vision loss from this type of diabetic retinopathy by 60
If you have macular edema, laser surgery may
also be used. In this case, the laser beam is used to seal the leaking blood
However, laser surgery often cannot restore
vision that has already been lost. That is why finding diabetic retinopathy
early is the best way to prevent vision loss.
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