Diabetes is a common systemic disease that is one of the leading causes of blindness in North America. The CDC estimates that 10.3 million Americans have diagnosed diabetes. It is also estimated that 5.4 million people have diabetes that has yet to be diagnosed. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in people between the ages of 40 and 60. One patient in 12 over 40 has advanced vision-threatening retinopathy. The rate of blindness in diabetic patients is 20 times that in the general population.
Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes. It affects the small blood vessels or capillaries in the retina. These walls of these blood vessels are damaged, and they begin to bleed, break down, leak and become obstructed. As the disease progresses, abnormal blood vessels begin to grow on the surface of the retina and optic nerve. This process is known as neovascularization, and can lead to severe bleeding, loss of vision and retinal detachments.
In most cases, the severity of the retinopathy is related to the duration of the disease. The prevalence of retinopathy is 7% in patients who have had the disease for less than 10 years. It reaches 63% in patients who have had their diabetes for over 15 years. The risk of developing retinopathy can be reduced with careful control of your glucose levels.
Diabetes also increases the risk for other eye diseases, such as glaucoma and cataracts. Many of the ocular complications of diabetes can be treated, especially if they are detected early. Annual dilated examinations are essential in all diabetic patients to detect any retinopathy. Dr. Filer also uses Optical coherence tomography (OCT) a non-invasive imaging technology to help detect retinopathy in it’s earliest stages.