I see patients every day for diabetic eye exams. It is great that they are coming in for these exams, but I find that most of them don’t understand WHY they need yearly eye exams.
High blood sugar weakens the smallest blood vessels in our body (capillaries) by weakening the wall structure. When the wall structure weakens it causes very small breaks or leaks. Although these changes happen all over the body, I can actually look in the back of the eye and see these changes. If these are seen it usually means that the blood sugar has been running a little high for a few months at a minimum. These small leaks can usually resolve on their own if the blood sugar control is improved.
If blood sugar is uncontrolled, or poorly controlled, the probability of complications continues to go up as time passes. Some of these problems include death of retinal tissue, hemorrhage into the eye, and retinal detachments. All of these more serious problems require some sort of surgical intervention or treatment and can cause permanent loss of vision in the effected eye.
The take home point is that taking care of high blood sugar levels associated with Diabetes helps to avoid complications. The sooner this is done, the better the visual outcome is long term.
R. Scott Hoffman, M.D.