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Detecting Eye Diseases and Conditions

Ways to Prevent Cataracts

You may help delay cataract development by: avoiding overexposure to sunlight -- wear sunglasses with ultraviolet protection and a wide-brimmed hat.

Diabetic Eye Disease

People with diabetes are at risk for developing several eye diseases:

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye disease in people with diabetes. It affects over 5 million Americans aged 18 and older. Usually both eyes develop the disease. Diabetic retinopathy progresses in four stages. The most severe is proliferative retinopathy.

Damaged blood vessels due to diabetic retinopathy can cause vision loss and blindness two ways:

  1. Fluid leaks into the center of the retina, called the macula. This area of the retina is where central vision takes place. The fluid causes the macula to swell, blurring vision.
  2. In proliferative retinopathy, new and abnormal blood vessels grow. These vessels blur vision by leaking blood into the center of the eye and causing scar tissue, and that can lead to retinal detachment.

Who's at Risk for Diabetic Eye Disease?

Everyone with diabetes, type 1 and type 2, is at risk for diabetic eye disease. The longer you have diabetes, the more your risk grows. According to the National Eye Institute, up to 45% of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some form of diabetic retinopathy.

One problem with identifying yourself as being at risk is that proliferative retinopathy and macular swelling can develop without any symptoms. Sometimes vision remains unaffected as the eye disease progresses. Nevertheless, your risk of eventual vision loss is high – that’s one reason why routine eye exams are necessary.

Symptoms of Diabetic Eye Disease

Like diabetes, early symptoms of diabetic retinopathy may not be noticed for some time. Don't wait for symptoms to appear before taking action. If you've been diagnosed with diabetes, schedule a complete eye exam with your eye doctor once a year, or more often if needed. If you delay treatment until vision is noticeably affected, it may be less effective.

See your eye doctor right away if you notice these symptoms:

  • Blurred vision – this is very common in people with diabetes who have unstable blood sugar levels even without the presence of retinopathy.
  • "Floaters" that swim in and out of your vision in one eye that last longer than a few days. These may be ordinary harmless floaters, but if you have diabetes especially, floaters may be the sign of bleeding in the back of the eye. New floaters are always a reason for seeing an eye doctor -- especially when you have diabetes.

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