Diabetes is becoming more prevalent. One in 10 Americans have it and the condition is trending up. And while optometrists can often spot early signs that may point to diabetes aiding in the diagnosis, it is arguably more important to get regular eye care once it’s diagnosed.

Diabetics should have a minimum of one eye examination per year. It’s estimated 60 percent of diabetics are skipping this annual check. This is a problem because sight-threatening changes can show up well before the patient experiences symptoms. Additionally, these changes can be an indirect measure of how well the diabetes is being treated.

Diabetes can affect nerves and blood vessels throughout the body, including the eyes. Progression can cause bleeding and swelling, particularly devastating complications in the eye.

These changes can be subtle, but new technologies including different types of pictures help eye doctors to find these issues. The retina in the back of the eye contains a rich and complex network of blood vessels. Excess sugar in the blood leads to dysfunction of the inner vessel layers, especially in the capillaries or the smallest of blood vessels. Damage to these vessels can be seen well in advance of vision loss.

The good news – a large array of treatments are available for diabetic eye problems.

Dr. Jace Picken is an optometrist at Prairie Vision Center in Wahpeton

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