Answers by Mitchell Gossman, MD, an ophthalmologist at Eye Associates of Central Minnesota, located in St. Cloud

Question: What are the big concerns when it comes to diabetes and eye disease?

Patients with diabetes need to be seen at least annually, even if they are having no vision problems. This is so important that the health care provider taking care of you will often ask if you have had an eye exam. Why is this? Because diabetes can cause problems that can result in permanent loss of vision or even blindness. Furthermore, it is better that these problems are treated before they are causing symptoms. As an analogy, it’s better to snuff out a wastebasket fire than it is to bring a blaze involving the whole house under control.

High blood sugar results in damage to the large and small blood vessels of the body. What does this have to do with the eyes?

Example of diabetic retinopathy. Contributed photo

The eyes are a very sensitive “instrument,” with perfect functioning of the retina needed to provide excellent vision. The retina, which detects images of the outside world, has its own blood supply, and if these blood vessels are damaged by diabetes, even if it’s a small degree that elsewhere in the body could be tolerable, it can affect retinal function and cause blurred vision or missing areas of vision. If this happens, it is called “diabetic retinopathy.”

There are many ways that diabetic retinopathy can affect vision, and it is treated via observation only, laser, medications, and surgery in the operating room.

The important thing to remember is that diabetic retinopathy in its earlier stages might produce no symptoms at all, therefore it is important to detect the problem at a routine examination before you notice any problems with your vision. A screening exam is required at least annually for anyone who is diabetic. This is performed via a painless dilated examination of the eyes, sometimes with additional testing.

What else can you do?

If you keep tight control of your blood sugars, working with your doctor who treats your diabetes, it has been shown to prevent development of diabetic retinopathy or reduce the severity of disease.

When your examination is performed, the results of your examination will be forwarded to those involved in your care so they are reassured that this be being monitored.

With proper detection and treatment, the majority of patients can keep good vision for a lifetime.

Find out more

Dr. Mitchell Gossman and Dr. Andrea Joplin are ophthalmologists at Eye Associates of Central Minnesota in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and see patients from all over Central Minnesota and the St. Cloud area. They accept new patients, and appointments may be made at 320-774-3789.

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