Diabetes FAQs

Diabetes can affect the eyes in several different ways, threatening  vision. The most common condition is diabetic retinopathy. When a person has diabetic retinopathy, other eye problems such as glaucoma, cataracts, and macular edema can occur. It can also lead to a retinal detachment. All of these conditions are common when people have diabetes.

The most common diabetic eye disease is diabetic retinopathy, which is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in people ages 20 to 74 in the U.S. Nearly 1 in 3 people with diabetes will develop retinopathy at some point.

There is no guaranteed cure for any of these diabetic eye diseases. What’s most important with each of these diseases is early diagnosis. With early diagnosis, Dr. Sondheimer often can slow or stop the progression of the disease before it impacts the patient’s vision permanently.

Diabetic eye disease should be monitored and managed throughout the rest of your life. That’s because diabetes generally remains for life and often injures the eyes as time goes on. This is why close monitoring and meticulous treatment gives you the best chance to see for the remainder of your life.  If your diabetes accelerates the development of cataracts, cataract replacement surgery only takes a few minutes and cataract lens replacement is usually a permanent vision restoration solution. 

Some treatments may need to be repeated. Focal laser treatments, scatter laser treatments, and vitrectomies are all used to stem the leakage from the blood vessels abnormalities in  diabetic retinopathy. Keeping your blood sugar levels under tight control will often delay the onset of diabetic retinopathy.

Eye Care, Skokie. IL Unless advised to have more frequent examinations, every diabetic should have a complete eye examination once a year. It’s a good idea for diabetics to cover each eye for a few seconds every day and make sure that the other eye appears to be seeing well.

Diabetic Macular Edema is a thickening of the Macula (the central part of the retina that gives the clearest vision). It is caused by leakage of retinal vascular structures which are damaged by elevated blood sugar. Swelling of the macula, abnormal yellow exudates and hemorrhage in the macula. It is detected with special tests such as Ocular Coherence Tomography (OCT) and Fluorescein Angiography.

Diabetic Macular Edema is treated with Intraocular Injections of anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) medications and/or Laser treatments. The treatment stops leaking in the macula.

In Ischemic Diabetic Macular Disease the blood vessels providing nutrition to the macula become narrowed and closed. Laser and anti-VEGF medications do not help treat Ischemic Diabetic Macular Disease. While in the early stage, this eye disease can change the retina of the eye. These changes are classified as proliferative and non-proliferative retinopathy.

Yes, visually impairing cataracts are more common in diabetics than in people without cataracts. Cataracts in diabetics that cause impairment of important visual functions such as seeing to drive or read can usually be effectively treated with cataract surgery. Cataract surgery does not treat diabetic retinopathy; but sometimes cataract surgery can make it easier to treat diabetic retinopathy.

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In proliferative diabetic retinopathy, new abnormal blood vessels grow in the diabetic retina that can bleed, fibrose, and detach the retina. This is a condition that could dramatically affect your sight. The abnormal growth of blood vessels also increase a risk for macular edema.

Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy is treated with laser photocoagulation, intraocular injection of anti-VEGF medication, and/or surgery to remove the vitreous gel. The goal of the treatments is to prevent any further vision loss. Controlling your blood sugar can also reduce its progression.

Keeping your diabetes in control can prevent or delay the onset of diabetic eye disease. Regular examinations by Dr. Sondheimer can help detect diabetic eye and lead to earlier, more effective treatments.

Surgical removal of the vitreous is necessary when blood in the vitreous does not resolve, when the retina detaches, when proliferative diabetic eye disease can’t be controlled with laser treatment, and when there is severe scarring of the retina.

Laser surgery for diabetic retinopathy may not restore vision that has already been lost. It often slows the progression of the disease. Your vision may be blurry for a day or so after laser surgery, but this usually clears. Your eyes may ache after treatment for several hours. . In the weeks after laser surgery, some people notice spots in their side vision when looking at objects  with a white background. This should improve. If more laser treatment is needed, this can eventually cause excessive glare and difficulty seeing in sunlight.

Yes. Treating diabetic eye disease is necessary to prevent potential blindness, and the diabetic evaluation and treatments used by Dr. Sondheimer are covered by insurance.

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If you would like more information on treatment for diabetic eye problems, contact our Skokie office today with an online contact form or call 847-677-2794 to schedule a consultation with top ophthalmologist Dr. Stuart Sondheimer.

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